Category Archives: Living in Jamaica

Find out what living in Jamaica is really all about. Tips, tricks and know-how of moving, living and staying in the land of wood and water.

How to Pack a Barrel for Shipping to Jamaica

A Guide to Packing Barrels and Drums for Shipping

So you have decided to ship a barrel to Jamaica, but don’t know where to start with the packing? Buying up goods and packing your first barrel is like going through a rite of passage and not necessarily an enlightened one if not done right.

It takes time, patience and cunning packing skills to ensure you start on the right foot. Cutting corners could mean the end result puts you off from doing it again.  To end your barrel packing dilemmas and nightmares, I have put together my top tips and tricks on how to pack a barrel for shipping to Jamaica the easy breezy way….

More Information: Missed the brief on what to buy, Read What to Pack in a Barrel for Shipping to Jamaica


 How to Pack a Barrel

Packing a barrel effectively can take some time, patience and experience. But once you get the hang of it you will be able to make the best use of space and keep the contents safe and secure in transit.

I would highly recommend tackling the packing when you have a couple of hours (at the very least) to spare and when you aren’t tired, hungry or generally in a bad mood. Packing a barrel can be tedious to say the least and it’s best to get into it when the timing is right. Instead of leaving it to the last minute, resulting in bags of breakfast cereal being popped and thrown around the room in frustration!


Getting Prepared:

  • Grab a drink and maybe a snack and leave it to hand, packing a barrel can be hungry and thirsty work – I recommend a nice cup of tea or coffee, or alcohol… it’s one of those tasks that demands it!
  • Move away of all items that you do NOT want to pack in the barrel, so they don’t get accidentally shipped to Jamaica (goodbye remote control!)
  • Wait until you have all (or most) of the items you want to ship, before attempting to pack your barrel
  • Have plenty of tape, newspaper, bubble wrap, containers, plastic bags, food bags and a black permanent marker to hand
  • Sort the items into type; dried foods, tinned foods, detergents / cleaning products, toiletries, clothing and fabric based items, delicate and breakable items and so on
  • Apply strong parcel (brown tape) or gaffer tape around all the covers and caps of items, especially if the bottles contain liquids / sauces
  • Double wrap items in plastic packaging, such as rice, couscous, dried beans, legumes, breakfast cereal – if the bag gets snagged and sends the whole contents plummeting to the bottom of the barrel
  • Wrap any glass jars, crockery, china and breakable containers in newspaper or bubble wrap; for extra security you can put the wrapped jars inside a plastic storage container to keep them contained and protected
  • See if there is any additional packaging that can be removed, such as, the boxes toothpaste tubes are packaged in, or breakfast cereal boxes
  • Remove ‘air’ from packaging; make a small hole in plastic packaging and squeeze the additional air out of the package, seal back the hole with packing or gaffer tape – such as bags of rice and pasta

Loading the Barrel:

  • If you are shipping two or more barrels, put the chemicals, detergents, toiletries and the tinned foods in one barrel, and put the other foodstuffs and delicate stuff in another barrel, to prevent transfer of scent and to protect food from accidental contamination
  • Pack your barrel in layers to prevent damage to the contents and the transfer of smell / taste; which is why it is important to sort the items into type
  • Put heavy and bulky items to the bottom of the barrel to make a strong foundation for the rest of the contents to sit on
  • Any chemicals, should be packed to the bottom of the barrel so that they cannot spill over the other items
  • Stack tins, in tall turrets, one on top of the other to conserve space
  • Pack small items, such as tubes of toothpaste and sachets of food, in empty plastic containers or plastic bags and push them into any gaps
  • You can restrict the transfer of scented items, such as soap and perfumes, by sealing them inside air-tight containers – do not pack them near to dried goods which have a habit of ‘sucking up’ the scent (soap flavoured rice and pasta does not taste good!)
  • Delicate food items, such as dried goods, snacks and breakfast cereals should be packed at the top of the barrel and double wrapped where they cannot be squashed or burst
  • Use soft items, such as, towels or clothes to form a barrier between the heavy items at the bottom of the barrel and the soft and food items near the top, this also helps prevent the spread of scent
  • Place any receipts for proof of the cost and age (non-food items) of the contents in an envelope and put it on the top of the contents in case you want to show it to customs officials at the wharf to prove the value of goods; new non-food items will attract more import taxes, so if you can prove that dish set or electrical item is used it will lessen the blow
  • This may seem ridiculous, but… don’t clean, shine and spruce up used household items – the wear and tear ensures it is obvious it is a used item (see above point) – this is probably not appropriate if sending items to others, but if it is for your own use just scour that old dutch pot to within an inch of its life when you get to Jamaica
  • Leave a few empty plastic bags at the top of the barrel in case you need to put anything in them that wont fit back in the barrel after customs have gone through it


How to Pack a Barrel in Layers


Making the Best use of Space in the Barrel

Before you put a single item in the barrel consider this. Your barrel will be squeezed and stacked among enough barrels to fill a 20ft or 40ft container. The containers will be stacked sky-high on a cargo ship, which will transport your heaving barrel across the ocean waves to Jamaica. Where it will be unpacked unceremoniously on a table in the wharf for clearing through Customs. After all of that it will be repacked and covered for the last leg of the journey, to your home in Jamaica… Quite an adventure for a humble barrel.

Five Things that went wrong

Whilst I do highly recommend using up all the available space and nooks and crannies in your barrel, don’t go overboard. I have noticed if I pack too zealously things go wrong. I have a few incidents that spring to mind…

  1. The time a can of soda was pierced with an unidentified sharp object, which left strange brown stains over everything below it – Result: I am more aware of what is nestled beside each other
  2. The time a pack of dried chickpeas popped, spilling to the bottom of the barrel – Result: I double / triple wrap flimsy packaging now in plastic carrier bags
  3. The time my brand new large plastic container cracked so badly at one end a piece fell off – Result: I don’t over stuff the inside and I leave a bit of breathing (or should I say heaving) room around the outside, to be extra cautious you can wrap soft and cushioning fabric items around it
  4. The time two champagne glasses had their stems broken – Result: I drank it out of sanitary cups… just joking! I now wrap every breakable item in bubble wrap
  5. The time my Mum secretly packed some Christmas goodies at the top of a barrel, but left scented items with chocolate coins – Result: I put anything porous or scented inside an airtight container to stop the transfer of smell, as the chocolate tasted of perfume


How to pack a barrel

In Conclusion – Highlights of my Packing Tips!

I find that by having everything you want to pack in the barrel in front of you, you tend to plan the packing more efficiently which lessens the chances of mishaps.

Heavy items and hazardous chemicals should always be put in the bottom of the barrel first and the caps and covers should be taped. It is not uncommon for the contents of bottles to be squeezed and compressed so much that they force their way around the cap spilling into the bottom of the barrel. Not good if it is bleach or shampoo. Top Tip! Tape the caps really securely with strong brown tape of gaffer tape, ensuring any items with a pump cannot be dispensed.

Soaps and clothes detergents have very strong scents which can penetrate through a plastic bag and soak into dried goods and even chocolate bars!  Make sure you separate these types of items and preferably put either the offending items, or the food stuffs into airtight containers to control the transfer of perfumed goods. Better still, use both if possible. I like to use mason jars and empty ice-cream tubs to stuff small items inside, as they come in handy for storing foodstuffs when I get to Jamaica. Top Tip! Put dried foods and scented products in reusable airtight containers.

If I am bringing any breakables or delicate items I buy a big plastic box with a cover, and pack the items inside after wrapping them individually in bubble wrap; this container can be used to store your supplies of dry goods afterwards to keep them away from insects and vermin. Make sure the container can pass through the mouth of the barrel! It will usually have to be stored on its end in the barrel, so pack the heavier items to one side of the box and place that end into the barrel first; I would also recommend taping the cover to the box, so that it cannot come open when being removed from the barrel. Top Tip! Many warehouse stores and Ikea sell large plastic storage boxes – don’t forget to tape the cover on!

Look for ‘hidden’ space lurking in the barrel, or create it. Any empty vessels can be stuffed with something, such as pots and pans; remove the handles where possible, then tape the handle and screw together before placing it inside if it will fit, along with some stuff that will fit inside (breakables or easily squashed foods are ideal as the temporary metal vessel it travels in is highly protective). Release excess air from items that will not spoil by doing so. Put something else in the ‘dead space’ in packaging, such as the top of a bulk pack of clothes washing detergent – I recommend using a bottle of fabric softener, or something that won’t be affected by the strong scent. Remove unnecessary extra packaging, if it will not be in detriment to the items arriving safely. Top Tip! Look carefully for extra space you can find or save to maximise the contents

If you are packing dishes or glassware which are sold in a cardboard box, I would recommend opening it and placing a sheet of bubble wrap between each item before replacing them back in the cardboard box. This may make it hard to fit everything into the box, so a good old piece of tape might be needed to secure a box bursting at the seams! Top Tip! Use Bubble wrap, or the very least newspaper to wrap breakable items and tape boxes at the seams!

Use soft items, such as towels, curtains and clothes to form a ‘barrier’ between the items in the bottom of the barrel and the delicate items at the top; it creates a great scent catcher too! Top Tip! You may prefer to place these types of items in a plastic bag to keep them clean.


Further Information About Shipping

We have plenty of guides about shipping a barrel or crate, or anything else for that matter. Check out our other posts to read the whole series on Shipping to Jamaica:

Sweet Jamaica Guides to Shipping

Want to know what a barrel is all about and where to get one? Read A Guide to Barrels and Drums – Shipping Basics

Want to learn the best contents for packing in a Barrel? Read How to Pack a Barrel for Shipping to Jamaica

Want to learn the process involved in shipping in the senders country? Read The Art of Shipping a Barrel – Part One

Want to learn the process involved in collecting a shipment in Jamaica? Read The Art of Shipping a Barrel – Part Two

Want some additional information on Shipping to Jamaica? Read Sending a Barrel or Crate to Jamaica


Get More From Sweet Jamaica – Join Us Here…

Want to get updates on the move then join us…

FaceBook Page

Twitter feed @sweetjamaicajul 


Looking forward to hearing from you.

Bless up, Jules

Keep the Conversation Going….

Have you shipped a barrel to Jamaica, share your experience? Join the Comments Below….


What to Pack in a Barrel being Shipped to Jamaica

What to Pack in a Barrel being Shipped to Jamaica

So you read the ‘Guide to Barrels And Drums – Shipping Basics’ and are fully versed on what barrels and drums are all about. Now you are ready to try shipping a barrel for yourself.

If you are feeling confused and hot under the collar about what to put in the barrel and where to buy it, you have come to the right place.

This post gives you a guide as to what to pack in a barrel being shipped to Jamaica so you get the most out of the experience and cost involved in shipping.

More Information: Missed the memo on barrels and drums? A Guide to Barrels and Drums – Shipping Basics

What to Pack for Jamaica

Before you go ahead and buy your barrel you will need to think about filling it up. A standard sized barrel holds 210 – 220 litres (about 55 Gallons) and is surprisingly roomy inside, consuming innumerable items to fill it up.

Depending on what you buy,  it can be costly to fill up a barrel due to the internal capacity. So either take your time buying up items over a period of months, or get yourself prepared for the onslaught if buying it all in one go.

If you are stuck as to what to put in the barrel, think about who the recipient will be. Are you sending the barrel to yourself, or to a loved one?

For example, is the barrel going to a child, an adult with a young family, or are you sending it to granny? This will help you determine the type of things you are going to want to initially include as the essential or basic items.

If you want to pack a barrel with provisions, just think about what you, or the recipient normally eat and use inside the home.  After that, buy some things that will be useful. For good measure add some of your favourite treats and a few bits to give away, plus anything else that is expensive and hard to come by in Jamaica.

That might be easier said than done, especially if you haven’t been to Jamaica for a while (or ever before), as it can be hard to know ‘what is expensive and hard to come by in Jamaica’ if you have no experience of living there! So keep reading and I will cover that for you too.

More Information: If you are ready to start packing your barrel, read How to Pack a Barrel for Shipping to Jamaica

10 Tips when Buying Contents for a Barrel

  1. If you are on a budget try buying goods over a period of time, especially when they are on offer
  2. Check the sell-by-date and reach for the products with the longest remaining date printed on the label
  3. Look out for deals, sales, promotions, coupons, buy-one-get-one-free, 3 for 2 deals and special offers
  4. Check out bargain basement stores, such as £1 – One pound, and $1 – One dollar stores
  5. Join warehouse stores, such as Costco or Makro, and buy bulk sized portion packs
  6. Compare the prices of products online before going out and buying everything from one store
  7. Make use of supermarket home delivery, you are less likely to deviate from your list if you buy online
  8. Look for products packaged in plastic containers, rather than glass, as they travel better and require less padding
  9. Second-hand clothing attracts less tax, eCommerce sites, such as eBay has sellers offering ‘bulk loads or bundles’ of clothing, many barely worn, for next to nothing
  10. Remember the climate is different, unstable goods rot and melt, man-made materials have a tendency to suffer from dry rot and un-coated metal products are soon affected by rust

tinned cans

Barrel Content Ideas and Tips

The most important thing to remember is to only pack ‘shelf stable’ products, so don’t pack anything that requires refrigeration.

Think of it as the contents of a pantry, so buy up stocks of kitchen and home basics that have a long sell-by-date and which form part of a meal. Household items, school supplies and hurricane preparation goods are well received, as well as clothes and accessories.


Pack a Barrel – Content Ideas 

  • Dried foodstuffs; rice, dried pasta, dried beans / legumes, noodles, couscous, tea bags, hot and cold drink powders (with milk and sugar inside!), biscuits, snacks, breakfast cereal, cornmeal, popping corn, dried seasoning, protein powders and health foods
  • Tinned foodstuffs; fish, meat, baked beans, tinned vegetables, tinned fruit / desserts, milk, (Jamaican’s aren’t usually fans of tinned soup)
  • Jarred / bottled foodstuffs; cooking oil, peanut butter, spreads, sauces, condiments, jams (jelly), coffee, olives, pickles
  • Detergents and Cleaning materials; washing detergent for clothes, washing up liquid, bleach, cloths, sponges, pot scrubbers and other cleaning materials.
  • Kitchen essentials; foil, plastic wrap, food bags, food clips
  • Toiletries; soap, liquid soap / shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrushes, body lotion, face cream, deoderant, razors, face scrub / wash, suntan lotion, cotton wool / Earbuds (Q-tips)
  • First Aid; antiseptic cream, plasters (band-aid) bandages, tape, pain pills, allergy relief, muscle rub, vitamins, flu / cold remedies, insect repellent, bite relief, rehydration salts, diarrhoea and sickness relief
  • Kitchen wares; pots / pans, dishes, cups, cutlery, utensils,  mason jars and similar, tupperware /plastic airtight containers
  • Soft Furnishings; bed sheets, blankets and covers, shower curtains, towels and bath mats, tea towels
  • Household Items; washing line, clothes peg (pin)
  • School Supplies; backpack, pencil case, pens and pencils, geometry set, dictionary, coloured pencils, notebooks, sketch pad, craft supplies, embroidery supplies, reading books, educational aids, snacks
  • Hurricane Supplies; tarpaulin, rope, flash light, candles, rainmac / poncho, umbrella, water boots (wellington boots), batteries, counter-top gas plate (DO NOT inlcude the GAS cylinder!!), vessels to hold water

What NOT to Pack in a Barrel

  • Do not pack any items that usually need to be refrigerated, such as meat, cheese, fish or other dairy products
  • Do not pack any fresh fruits or vegetables, plants or flowers, any forms of live animals; including birds (including eggs) / insects / sea life / reptiles or other organisms!
  • Do not pack any freshly prepared products, or part cooked foods, such as breads and baked goods, microwave and oven meals, pizza and pastry items, fast food of any kind (although most fast food could survive a nuclear holocaust the amount of preservatives they contain!)
  • Do not pack anything that is flammable, explosive, corrosive or dangerous in any way!
  • Do not pack matches, lighters, gas cylinders of any kind, fireworks, wet batteries (vehicle batteries)

Items that are Expensive and hard to come by in Jamaica

I would like to say that most things are available in Jamaica, but certain items are really over priced or hard to find, especially if you live in rural areas.

International Foods: If you are into eating international foods and like to whip up your own meals, it would be prudent to include a few grocery items that make this possible.

I enjoy cooking Asian, Mexican, Middle Eastern and Italian Foods, among other things. So I always pack basmati rice, authentic Thai Curry pastes, fish sauce, dry seasonings and herbs, tins of bamboo shoots, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, packet mixes, condiments, stock cubes, dried beans and legumes, olive oil, super-food powders, protein powders / supplements, clean living foods and other similar products.

Point of Note: Cooking Oil of any kind is expensive in Jamaica.

Pharmacuetical and First-Aid Supplies: Pharmacists in Jamaica must get paid great commission from the manufacturers, because they invariably recommend and prescribe the most expensive brands, instead of showing you the generic non-branded options. The cost of the simplest items will make you consider if you really need it.

I would highly recommend packing yourself a box of first-aid items, as outlined in the list above so you aren’t caught out when in a mini-crisis.

Homewares and Soft Furnishings: The majority of items made from fabric are either cheap imported Chinese goods, or expensive international versions. One towel can cost almost the same as a ‘bale of towels’ overseas, you could buy two or more bed-sets or blankets for the same price as one, curtains and nets are in a similar position.

Pots, pans, cutlery and utensils, in fact all kitchen supplies, one word to describe… Expensive.

Hurricane Supplies: All and sundry on the list above is expensive in Jamaica.

School Supplies: You can get cheap pens and pencils in Jamaica, in stores like Bashco, but the rest of the items are pricey.

Toiletries: When you can buy nearly everything on the list above in a pound or dollar store, it seems rude not to bring them with you! Or you can expect to pay 2 to 4 times that price in Jamaica for the same item, if they stock your usual brand.

Clothes et all: Whilst a barrel full of clothes and accessories is going to cost you more tax, a few choice items will make someone’s day. Despite Jamaica’s tropical location the weather is changeable throughout the year, hot and overbearing,  rainy and humid, chilly and wet. So don’t just pack shorts, flip flops and swimsuits!

Anything different, or from overseas is revered in Jamaica and that includes random things like snow boots, which I have seen a couple of people wearing since the ‘winter’ kicked in over here!… I would recommend something a bit more practical though!


First Aid Kit


What Items are Prohibited or Restricted by Jamaican Customs for Personal Shipping?

Some items are prohibited and restricted from entering Jamaica, so don’t assume because you own it, or it is legal in your own country that it will be allowable in Jamaica. There are laws, rules and guidance about what items are prohibited from entering Jamaica.

The Jamaican Customs website states that Prohibited Items include:

  • Prohibited items are absolutely forbidden from entering Jamaica, some of which include:
  • Indecent and obscene prints
  • Indecent and obscene prints, paintings, photographs, cinematograph films, lithographs, engravings, books, cards or written communications or any indecent or obscene articles whether similar to the above or not and any    parcels, packages or packets having thereon, or on the cover thereof, any  words, marks or designs which are grossly offensive or of an indecent or obscene character.
  • Coin-base or counterfeit coin of any country.

The following and similar publications:

1. All publications of de Laurence Scott and Company of Chicago in the United States of America relating to divination, magic, cultism or supernatural arts.

2. All publications of the Red Star Publishing Company of    Chicago in the United States of America relating to divination, magic, cultism or supernatural arts.

Some meats, fish, dairy produce, seeds, sugar and other items are also restricted.

More Information: Jamaican Customs website has designed a supporting PDF outlining the goods it applies to if in doubt.


Further Information About Shipping

We have plenty of guides about shipping a barrel or crate, or anything else for that matter. Check out our other posts to read the whole series on Shipping to Jamaica:

Sweet Jamaica Guides to Shipping

Want to know what a barrel is all about and where to get one? Read A Guide to Barrels and Drums – Shipping Basics

Want to learn how to effectively pack a Barrel? Read How to Pack a Barrel for Shipping to Jamaica COMING SOON!

Want to learn the process involved in shipping in the senders country? Read The Art of Shipping a Barrel – Part One

Want to learn the process involved in collecting a shipment in Jamaica? Read The Art of Shipping a Barrel – Part Two

Want some additional information on Shipping to Jamaica? Read Sending a Barrel or Crate to Jamaica

Get More From Sweet Jamaica – Join Us Here…

Want to get updates on the move then join us…

FaceBook Page

Twitter feed @sweetjamaicajul 


Looking forward to hearing from you.

Bless up, Jules

Keep the Conversation Going….

Have you shipped a barrel to Jamaica, share your experience? Join the Comments Below….


A Guide to Barrels and Drums – Shipping Basics

A Guide to Barrels and Drums – Shipping Basics

Have you ever noticed a big blue plastic barrel sitting incongruously by the roadside in Jamaica, or displayed in a shipping companies window overseas and wondered what it was used for?

Maybe you have thought about sending some items to loved ones in Jamaica and want to find out more about barrels and drums first?

This post will give you a Guide to Barrels and Drums, the shipping basics. So you know what barrels and drums are all about, prior to getting into the nitty-gritty of arranging shipping to Jamaica and traversing through customs.


Brief History of Shipping Barrels to Loved Ones in Jamaica

If you have ever visited Jamaica you may have noticed the amount of recycled drums and plastic shipping barrels that are harboured by residents across the island. These barrels and drums arrived in Jamaica aboard a cargo ship at one time or another. After being filled by a ‘pack a barrel’ genie overseas, who invariably knows all the tricks of stocking up on bargains and stuffing every piece of available space inside the barrel until it is ‘cork’ (full to the brim).

Shipping barrels back home ‘to yard’ is a long-standing Jamaican tradition, especially at Easter, Back to School and Christmas time. When a barrel full of love from overseas is carefully packed and sent over to loved ones, or dependents still living in Jamaica. These barrels are highly anticipated and the recipient is full of excitement when fishing into the depths to see what is packed inside. It is a way to keep in touch, reach out and support loved ones living in Jamaica, when they are apart.


Shipping a Barrel to Jamaica for an Extended Visit

The lure of shipping a barrel is one that might start to cross your mind when you are travelling to Jamaica for an extended stay, or when planning a trip to visit friends and family on the island. It’s the kind of thought that appears in your mind as a light-bulb moment, when the headache starts and the panic sets in over your luggage allowance and whether you can fit all the things you want to take with you in your suitcase.

I would highly recommend shipping a barrel to Jamaica, as it is a great way of contributing to the people you are staying with, or lowering your grocery bill if you are living independently over here for a while.

I will warn you know though, once you do succumb to shipping a barrel it is easy to get carried away, when you find the one intended barrel, becomes two, and two becomes three… I could go on, but I think you get the idea of what has happened to me before!

More information: Sending a Crate or Barrel to Jamaica

Where to Buy a Shipping Barrel

Barrels are usually sold by shipping companies and shipping agents, where they may offer free, or low-cost delivery in the local area. I have also seen barrels sold at international Money Transfer shops and e-commerce websites, such as eBay and Gumtree.  Shipping companies and international money transfer shops are popular in areas where there is a high population of migrant workers, such as London, Miami and Toronto and in areas where there is a shipping port or transport hub. It may be trickier to find barrels and drums in rural areas, but you can search online if in doubt, to locate the nearest supplier.

More Information: Looking for assistance with Shipping?  Recommended External Shipping Partners


What does a Shipping Barrel look like?

The most popular type of barrels used for shipping are made of plastic and are often recycled, after being used to transport raw materials of some kind in their earlier life. The plastic barrels aren’t always blue, but it is a very popular colour! Check the inside of the barrel for cleanliness and aroma, as some have an over-powering smell that may affect the taste of any food items you may wish to pack inside afterwards. If in doubt just leave the cover off for a day or two prior to packing, so that it can air out a bit.

Plastic Barrels are widely available in two sizes and are supplied with a plastic or metal cover, which has a separate ‘belt like’ levered locking fastener to secure the cover firmly in place. The barrels with the metal covers have the larger diameter, but the covers have a tendency to get bent at the edges making them harder to open and close after a time. Whereas the plastic covers are generally smaller in diameter, but they are sturdier are easier to fit creating an air tight seal on the barrel. Make sure you check the barrel opens and closes effectively before taking it home.

You can also buy metal drums or cardboard barrels, if you prefer. Just remember, whilst slightly cheaper, the cardboard barrels will be lighter, not as sturdy and will eventually be affected by the ingress of water. Conversely, the metal barrels will be heavier before you have put a single item inside and will be harder to manoeuvre around – but will be great for cutting in two when emptied to make a jerk pan when it reaches Jamaica!

Dimensions of a Shipping Barrel

  • The largest and most popular plastic barrel is about 36″ high and has a diameter of about 22-23″
  • The wider the mouth of the barrel, the easier it is to pack and unpack the contents
  • Large Barrels hold about 205 litres / 55 Gallons
  • Plastic barrels cost in the region of £32.00 in the UK, or $25.00 – $40.00 in the US
  • As far as I am aware there isn’t a weight limit to the contents (don’t go above 450 lbs!), as long as it can be moved by two men and the bottom does not fall out when it is moved!
  • You can ship almost anything in a barrel from food, household goods, clothes and toiletries to car parts, paddling pools and light tools (More information: The Art of Packing a Barrel – Part One)
  • Do NOT overly stress the barrel when packing it, as it will be stacked like for like in a 20 or 40ft container, and transported on a cargo ship which will be tossed around in the high seas potentially for weeks on end


Dimensions of a Shipping Barrel

Barrel Security

Once you have packed your barrel the shipping agent generally collects it from you and a small tamper proof seal is added to the lever.  The seal should not be removed until the person authorised to clear the barrel is present to witness the customs officials strip the barrel at the wharf to work out the tax payable in Jamaica.

There is no key for the seal as the sender may not be travelling to Jamaica to receive the barrel, so it just needs strong pliers to cut it off. If you are concerned ask the shippers to write the unique ID number on the security seal on your paperwork. Then the person that goes to collect the barrel at the wharf would have a record to check the barrels have not been tampered with.

Labelling your Barrel Correctly

Be sure to use a thick black permanent marker pen to write your name (or the receivers details) and address clearly on the barrel and the cover, so it is easily identifiable at the wharf. Do not forget to include the local post office in the address, (despite the barrel being delivered to the wharf) as this is the address they will use to contact the receiver if need be. The shipping agent will generally add their own label as well, but it is best not to rely on it.

In short, YOU are responsible as the sender to make sure the barrel is clearly marked and is easily identifiable at the wharf. Misspelt, incorrect and illegible names and addresses will not aid you in a speedy and stress free shipping process the other side.

Benefits of Shipping a Barrel to Jamaica

  • The large barrels hold about 205 litres / 55 Gallons (some hold more), with a mouth of up-to 23cm making it easy to load bulky, heavy or fragile items
  • You can send grocery items to cut down on weekly shopping bills in Jamaica, such as, detergent for clothes, washing up liquid, bleach and other cleaning materials. Tinned foodstuffs, rice, oil, foil, teabags, coffee, breakfast cereal, snacks and so on
  • You can pack some home comforts alongside gifts for friends and relatives, without compromising on your luggage allowance on the flight
  • Some items such as fixtures and fittings, housewares, soft furnishings and kitchen ware are very expensive or hard to get in Jamaica compared to the deals and choice you get overseas
  • You are able to send down specific and much needed items for loved ones and dependents in Jamaica when you are living overseas
  • The total cost of shipping a barrel, compared to the amount / weight of goods shipped is very economical when compared to sending by air mail, or a courier service

What Can you pack in a Barrel?

I would recommend packing your barrel with what you love, need and want for yourself or the recipient, alongside things that are hard to find or expensive in Jamaica. When choosing the contents be aware of the other costs involved, as the fees to be paid in Jamaica are related to the type and value of the contents.

You also need to sort your items and pack your barrel in a certain way to ensure that the contents reach the destination without spillage or breakages.

More information: The Art of Packing a Barrel – Part One

Do you have to pay Tax when Shipping a Barrel?

The short answer is YES! Regardless of the fact that you have bought all the contents and the barrel itself, and paid for shipping to Jamaica. Anything imported into Jamaica is liable for shipping costs, customs fees and taxes.

Barrels containing a mixture of food, (used) household and kitchen items, cleaning materials, toiletries, used clothes and other sundry items have the lowest tax bracket as they are considered to be items for personal use. When I asked the shipping agent in London how much customs tax I was likely to pay for one barrel containing these types of items they said it would be from $6,500 and would be payable at the wharf in Jamaica. Please Note, there are other fees to pay on top of the customs fee.

More information: The Art of Packing a Barrel – Part Two


What Happens to the Barrels after they are Emptied?

The plastic and metal barrels that once carried the goods, gifts and belongings of someone ‘dere a farrin’ to the hands of someone ‘back a yard’ are seen all over Jamaica in their retirement phase. Recycled drums and barrels are used as water storage containers, clothes storage facilities, containers for personal belongings, jerk bar-b-q’s (metal barrels only!), garbage bins and other types of storage vessels.

In Conclusion

A shipping barrel is an ideal way to transport goods to Jamaica from overseas locations. They are sturdy, water-resistant, secure and surprisingly roomy. The cost of a barrel is reasonable and the charges levied by shipping companies and shipping agents is very affordable compared with other methods of international delivery.



Get More From Sweet Jamaica – Join Us Here…

Want to get updates on the move then join us…

FaceBook Page

Twitter feed @sweetjamaicajul 


Looking forward to hearing from you.

Bless up, Jules

Keep the Conversation Going….

Have you shipped a barrel to Jamaica, share your experience? Join the Comments Below….

Sending a Crate or Barrel to Jamaica

Sending a Crate or Barrel to Jamaica

Whether you intend on sending a crate or barrel to Jamaica for yourself, or a loved one,  there are a few things to consider before you start buying up goods to fill it. After successfully shipping down enough barrels to start my own barrel shop in Jamaica, I have garnered some great tips and tricks up my sleeve in the process. Plus, I have squeezed in some of your FAQ’s (frequently asked questions) about sending a crate or barrel to Jamaica in the same post for a bit of added insight!…

Why Should you consider Shipping a Barrel to Jamaica

You may be wondering what all the fuss is about, but I can assure you there is nothing more exciting than the prospect of receiving a barrel from ‘foreign’ when living in Jamaica. When you get the call from the Shipping Agent that the barrel is ‘ready for collection’ at the wharf, a little leap of happiness and anticipation crosses the receivers very being. You too can send some love wrapped up in a plastic barrel to someone (or even yourself) when you fill it to the brim with useful and preferably edible, or wearable items from overseas…

What should you put in your Barrel

First and foremost: It may sound obvious, but I have been asked this question so many times before…  You need to decide what you are going to send to Jamaica in the barrel! Electrical items, alcohol and bundles of new name brand shoes and clothes will attract the interest of the customs officials and invariably high taxes. Whereas dry and canned food items, basic household goods, second-hand clothes and personal belongings, do not. If you are sending the barrel to yourself, pack things you love and miss from home, so if that means a barrel half filled with tins of Fray Bentos pies and Ambrosia Custard (as my friend did) go for it!


How to Find a reputable Shipping Agent to send Items to Jamaica

Before you start buying and packing up your items you will need to find a reputable local Shipping Company / Agent that offers a service to Jamaica.  If you don’t know of any agents, ask your friends if they can recommend anyone, as the best recommendation is usually a referral.

You can also try searching online, and consider a browse through your local Yellow Pages for some leads. The best thing is to compare the shipping prices, then search for reviews from previous customers to check the Shipping Agents service record.

Each Shipping company have a schedule of upcoming dates they will be shipping to Jamaica and will be able to tell you how long it should take for your goods to arrive at the wharf. Make sure their shipping schedule suits your plans and travel itinerary, as the last thing you want is for your items to arrive at an inconvenient date for collection.

I would highly recommend checking these things prior to arranging shipping to avoid disappointment caused by a hasty decision. If you don’t feel confident about doing it yourself, you can always try a company called ‘Living in Jamaica’ who offer a free shipping quotation to Jamaica, alongside many other Jamaican Relocation Services. 

What Determines the Cost of Shipping a Crate or Barrel to Jamaica

The cost of shipping a crate or barrel to Jamaica varies from agent to agent and is dependent on a few different factors such as:

  1. The individual shipping agent fees
  2. The price they charge for the barrel or crate itself
  3. They may charge a collection fee, to collect the barrel from your home address
  4. Whether you plan to collect and clear the barrel at the Jamaican wharf in person (you or the recipient), or if you opt for home delivery from the shipping agent (if offered) which will impose additional costs
  5. Please remember to take into consideration that there will be fees to pay in Jamaica too, there is a landing fee from the shipping agent, a handling fee for the wharf and not forgetting the customs tax on the contents of the barrel. These fees are payable whether you collect the barrel yourself, or if you opt and arrange for home delivery
  6. You may also be charged storage fees by the wharf, if you don’t collect the barrel in good time once it has arrived…

Don’t let this you put you off though, as it isn’t as complex or expensive as it sounds.

How can I save money Shipping a Barrel to Jamaica?

TOP TIP! –  It works out much cheaper if you ship the barrel to yourself, i.e. you can save money shipping a barrel to Jamaica, if you are both the sender and receiver listed on the ‘Bill of Lading’.

Simply ship the barrel from your home country, fly to Jamaica yourself and collect and fill out the C27 or Yellow Form at the airport. Get it stamped by Customs, then carry this form with you to the wharf to get up to a US$500.00 tax free allowance. 

Kingston wharves
Kingston Wharves

Frequently asked Questions about Shipping to Jamaica

Q) Do Shipping Agents offer Home Delivery in Jamaica and what is the cost?

A)  Home delivery is offered by many Shipping Agents, but you would have to check with the individual agent for full details of the service they offer. The price of home delivery will depend on what you want delivered and to which part of the island.

There are two ports in Jamaica, Kingston Wharf and Montego Bay Wharf; arrange for your items to be shipped to the nearest wharf to where you want the home delivery, to save on inland delivery costs. Please Remember, you will also be responsible for the customs fees and taxes upon delivery to the home address in Jamaica.

Q) Are there any ‘hidden costs’ when using a Shipping Company for Home Delivery?

A) When a Shipping Company offers home delivery, they are responsible for clearing the items at the wharf and pre-paying all fees on your behalf. These fees may be considered ‘hidden costs’ as they governed and determined by the Jamaican Customs Official who searches your items in Jamaica, and as such the Shipping Agent is unable to pre-determine these costs prior to the goods landing in Jamaica.

Please note: You will be not be notified of the final price payable until the goods are delivered to the home address provided in Jamaica. The paperwork for the taxes and customs fees associated with clearing the items will be handed over for immediate payment. If you are sending a barrel to someone else and are arranging home delivery for them in Jamaica, please ensure they have enough money to pay the final fees, as the items will not be released without full payment.

Barrel Contents
Contents of a Barrel Sent to Jamaica

Q) How much does it cost to ship a barrel to Jamaica from where I live?

A) There is no exact answer to this question, as the price to ship a barrel depends on many factors. However, I can tell you that finding a reputable local agent should be your first port of call, if you will excuse the pun! I would initially suggest checking out the Yellow Pages, which lists Shipping Companies based in your local area.

Browse through the list and check out the services offered by each shipping agent, including the cost of the empty barrel, the shipping companies fees (both in the home country and Jamaica) and the shipping time. I would then highly recommend that you ‘Google’ the company to find reviews about them before you agree to send off your possessions with them.

Further information Shipping to Jamaica, can be found the  checking out my other posts: The Art of Shipping a Barrel Part One and  The Art of Shipping a Barrel Part Two, which cover my own experience of visiting Kingston Wharf.

Q) How do I go about shipping a Charitable Donation to Jamaica, do I have to Pay Tax?

A) The receiver of the charitable donation are able to get a concession on the tax payable in Jamaica to clear the goods if you / they follow a certain procedure. You must inform the school / institution of the intended donation and make sure that they have obtained the Charitable Organisations status. The following information has been copied from the Jamaican Customs website:

Kingston, Jamaica: – Effective July 15, 2013, the Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA) and Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) will administer the tax relief for approved charitable organizations. No longer will charitable organizations, including Faith Based and Sporting Institutions be required to apply to the Minister of Finance and Planning to be granted a relief of customs duties and taxes for their charitable imports.

Approved charitable organizations are now required to apply directly to the Commissioner of Customs PRIOR to any shipment of goods, whether by donations or otherwise, to receive the requisite approval before the goods arrive at the Port of entry. Charitable Organizations that have not gained their “Charitable Organizations” approval will need to apply to the Commissioner General of the TAJ in order to gain that status.

The Ministry of Finance and Planning will continue to process applications that are currently in its possession until the enactment of the legislation; thereafter all applicants for duty/tax waiver will be referred to the Jamaica Customs Agency.

Jamaica Customs and Tax Administration Jamaica will be executing post audit operations with regards to goods being imported by Charitable Organizations. If any such organizations are deemed to have been in contravention of their approved status, the appropriate penalties will be applied.

The new arrangement for the treatment of approved charitable organizations is being done in accordance with the Houses of Parliament recently approved Bill entitled Charitable Organizations (Tax Harmonization) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2013.

You can also check out these links from the Ministry of Education for further information:

Making donations of gift in kind

Adopting a Jamaican School 

Barrels shipping to Jamaica
Shipping Barrels to Jamaica

Q) Who can use the C27 or ‘ Yellow Form’ when shipping to Jamaica?

A) Anyone who travels to Jamaica, no matter where they are from, are entitled to ship ‘unaccompanied items’ (i.e. a barrel or crate) to Jamaica to a value of US$500.00. To get this entitlement you have to follow a few easy steps:

  1. If you are travelling on a Jamaican passport you can omit this step and move to Step 2. If you travel to Jamaica on a foreign national passport (i.e. NOT a Jamaican passport) you will be given an ‘Immigration Form’ to fill in, remember to fill in the back of the form where it asks you to declare dutiable items as you will need this later when you get the C27 Form, which is known as the ‘Yellow Form’. I would NOT recommend getting too ‘creative’ with the figures as the customs officers have seen it all before and won’t be smiling along with you, as you try to deceive them!
  2. Approach the ‘to declare’ line at the arrival airport and show them the Immigration Form (if you have one) and ask for a C27 or yellow form. Mark down any dutiable items that you have in your luggage which are clearly listed on the forms; be warned if you grossly underestimate the value the customs officer won’t be very sympathetic with you and you may end up having to pay tax at the airport! The customs officer will look through your accompanied luggage, i.e. your suitcases and hand luggage to check the value of any items deemed not to be of a personal nature and will judge the value of duty-free items purchased. If you feel the value marked down is too high and you have receipts for any of the items you can show them to the Customs Officer and they may give a further concession. Therefore, if the customs officer marks down a value of US$150.00 on the C27 form, that means you have a tax-free allowance of US$350.00 to use against the unaccompanied luggage you are clearing at the wharf.
  3. Take the C27 Form to the wharf and any remaining tax-free allowance you have will be set against the tax payable on unaccompanied items that you have shipped to Jamaica. If you have shipped anything else that is arriving within a reasonable time (3 months) you can ask for any remaining allowance to be transferred to a new C27 form.

Q) Allowances for Returning Residents who are Shipping items to Jamaica?

A) There is a difference between a ‘returning resident’ bringing back personal belongings and a visitor to Jamaica bringing back ‘unaccompanied baggage’. A returning resident, which includes deportees,  are permitted to bring back a set amount of household and personal items tax-free. A returning resident is defined as:
1. Be a Jamaican national who has attained the age of eighteen (18) years; Has been resident overseas for not less than three 3 consecutive years and Returning to Jamaica to reside permanently.
2. Non-Jamaican whose spouse is a Jamaican Returning Resident
3. Jamaican student who has attained the age of eighteen (18) years and who has studied abroad for more than one year but less than three consecutive years.
4. Jamaican who gave up his/her citizenship (and can provide proof of that previous status) and wishes to return home.

The full list of entitlements given to a Returning Resident can be found on the Jamaican Government Customs Website.

Get More From Sweet Jamaica – Join Us Here…

Want to get updates on the move then join us…

FaceBook Page

Twitter feed @sweetjamaicajul 


Looking forward to hearing from you.

Bless up, Jules

Keep the Conversation Going….

Have you shipped a crate or barrel to Jamaica, share your experience? Join the Comments Below….



Living in Jamaica Long Term

If you are thinking about moving to Jamaica then the information I have given in the last post to retirees about living in Jamaica is much the same as for those who are still at working age.  Many of the same principles exist in relation to setting up home overseas, although the amount of every day ‘freedom’ and commitments you have is different.

Although Jamaica may seem like an ideal place to live especially when you are fresh home from a brilliant vacation, the reality of living here is nothing like life in an all inclusive hotel. I do not necessarily means in terms of surroundings as there are many beautiful homes in Jamaica that are worthy of being shown off to others. I am talking about getting used to your new environment, the way things are done, and the totally different way of life you will be leading. By reading my full post at Retirement and Good Living you will get an insight on what to expect when choosing Jamaica as a retirement destination. If you want some more general tips about living in Jamaica, whether retired or not, this post will expand on the information already given.

Getting a Visa and Attaining Permanent Residence in Jamaica

There are different stipulations to being physically allowed to live permanently in Jamaica and there is a preference for Jamaican descendants and their spouses. Commonwealth citizens, those who have worked here and non-nationals that are classed as ‘aliens’ need to apply and wait for a longer period of time to get their ‘stay’ in order to fully retire or live here permanently; namely after 5 years of living here you can apply for Citizenship. Full information and guidance can be found at the Passport, Immigration, and Citizenship Agency (PICA) website.

Enjoying the Climate in Jamaica

Living in London for the majority of my life has afforded me first-hand experience of the four seasons in the U.K., of which the summer months never last long enough. If you have ever planned an outdoor event in northern Europe you will be more than aware of the risk of being ‘rained off’, as is the unpredictability of the summer. The long and oppressive weather can be debilitating and even more so for those who should be enjoying the freedom that retirement brings. Sitting in your house shivering in the wintery months is not a prospect that even the most patriotic person looks forward to when contemplating spending the rest of their life in colder climates.

However, the pace of life in Jamaica is more relaxed and things take longer than you are used to back home. But you will have more freedom to be outside in the sunshine, taking in the fresh air and soothing the eyes with views of the tropical, green and bountiful Jamaican scenery. In Jamaica they say each rainfall is ‘A Blessing’ as without this rainfall the verdant and lush greenery that makes up Jamaica’s topography wouldn’t be possible. If you are able to afford a little space why not think about raising a small raised bed vegetable patch, keeping a few egg laying chickens and keeping some fruiting trees, so that you can have your own organic fresh food right in your garden? All this is possible year round in Jamaica. Give it a try,  it’s fun, environmentally friendly and keeps you healthy too.

Living The Good Life in Jamaica

‘Ah! the Good Life!’ I can guarantee that your retirement years in Jamaica will herald the call of this beautiful statement of satisfaction far more than any freedom years lived in the UK, Canada or America. I appreciate that I can be over zealous with my ramblings about the weather in Jamaica, but have I mentioned that you have almost guaranteed sunshine 365 days of the year?! You can wile away the hours pottering about around the home and garden with a slip of clothing and flip flops on. Home bodies will enjoy these pursuits, plus you can paint, sew, garden, play an instrument, entertain friends, listen to music or just chill taking in the view, or napping in the shade. If you prefer to leave the house there are places to go and things to experience, especially if you live near one of the tourist haven towns.

The health and well-being of the body feels freer and supple in the warm weather and many aliments are eased. Jamaica is abundant in its access to fresh foods including meat, chicken, seafood and fruits and vegetables and the mind and body will also benefit from being nourished with this diet. The pace of life is more relaxed, you have more freedom to be outside in the sunshine, taking in the fresh air and soothing the eyes with views of the tropical, green and bountiful Jamaican scenery.



Will I be Safe Living in Jamaica?

I would advise reading the Jamaican Gleaner or Jamaican Observer for the ‘real story’ about what is happening in Jamaica. Some people may think that this is a proverbial ‘shooting myself in the foot’ moment, but whilst many countries try and hide the crime rate, Jamaica is very honest in its depiction of the reality of the island. But in truth if you read any local newspaper in your home town you will be horrified to learn about what is happening to your friends and neighbours.

After researching online I couldn’t find Jamaica listed in anyone of the numerous ‘top 10 dangerous places to live’ lists, as South America, Africa, the Middle East, Korea, Pakistan and even the USA (due to terrorist threats) amongst others were featured. Much of the crime rate is related to the poorer areas and mainly due to people taking revenge and gang crimes, which often do not have prior mediation. Life for the poorer people and the middle classes in Jamaica is a very different experience and dependent on where and how you choose to live in Jamaica, will impact on how much crime you are potentially exposed to.

Putting Down Roots in Jamaica

There are many lots of land and finished properties for sale all over Jamaica and it can be hard to choose where to live if you have no special connection with a parish or area. Many people with roots in Jamaica choose to buy land nearby to family members that have remained there, whilst others prefer to move away from their former compadres and live in virtual anonymity in another area. There are also many gated communities and schemes that aim to offer a secure environment and a sense of community when everyone has come from different places, but are more or less on the same page as far as income, means and status is concerned.

It would be advised to rent a property in the area that you plan to live so that you can immerse yourself in your new community and get a sense of how your life will change and if you are able to adapt to it. When moving anywhere new and especially more so when it is overseas, it takes a while to settle in and get used to the different way of life so be patient and give it your all. Take your time getting to know people and don’t judge a book by its cover, many people have been deceived by those who they thought they could trust the most, whilst the ordinary person gets overlooked and misjudged.

I have heard stories of people sending down money to Jamaica for their dream home to be built or secured, only to find the money has been frittered away through the hands of idle people. Please be sure to use a reputable Project Manager or builder and make sure that you are keeping up to date with what is going on if you are not able to be in the country to oversee things. You may be frustrated by the speed that things move in Jamaica or the amount of red tape involved, but with the correct processes carried out in the correct order you will be able to reach your home owning goals. Yes, it will be stressful, but it will pass and if you protect yourself it shouldn’t be any more stressful than if you were going through the same process in the country you are leaving.

Jamaican Property
Jamaican Property


Driver, Don’t Stop At All!

Jamaican’s drive on the left of the road most of the time, but sometimes it is on the right when they overtake into an impossibly tight space. This can also be accompanied by a blind corner and a hump back bridge, but hey at least the high volume music keeps your gasps from being audible! O.K not everyone drives like this in Jamaica, but you will find that a lot of people do so be aware. If you do take public transport only get in a vehicle that has a red licence plate as they are insured and registered as passenger vehicles. You will still get crammed in but the new rules and regulations are making it more comfortable and safer for passengers even if you do pay a few more dollars.

If you have the means I would recommend that you purchase a vehicle for yourself as at least you can drive at the speed and gait that makes you and your passengers feel comfortable. You will need to drive ‘defensively’ on the road, that is to say be alert when driving, always use your mirrors and keenly watch and anticipate other driver’s actions. It is perfectly normal to blow the horn for any number of reasons and is recommended when driving around blind corners on narrow roads and when overtaking a vehicle that has suddenly pulled over to the side of the road.

Settling In To Your New Home in Jamaica

You may find that it takes a while to settle in, but give things time. There will be a flurry of activity that includes securing somewhere to live, preparing to leave, packing up your worldly belongings, saying your goodbyes and actually arriving in your new home only to unpack and organise again. Phew! Anyone would flop down in a chair after going through all that! As you sit there some of you may be thinking, now what? I would highly recommend that the easiest way of giving your new home and environs the best chance of giving you back what you want out of life, is to go out there and get it. How do you expect to make new friends and have dates in the diary if you shut yourself away in the perfect bubble you have created for yourself?

As I have described in my Guest Post on Retirement and Good Living in the Pursuits and Activities in Jamaica section, there are many ways of keeping yourself busy in Jamaica. But if you are still struggling then may I suggest that you join a local group for anything that interests or appeals to you, just turn up, smile, talk and be yourself. I am sure you will soon sieve the wheat from the chaff and find some like-minded people to spend time with. There are churches, community events, charities and local groups who would be glad of your time and assistance if you are willing to reach out to them. If you want somewhere to dress up, look in the daily newspapers for exhibitions, trade fairs, talks and other events going on at venues around the country and get involved. You will be glad you did and will relish your new life in paradise.

Give Your New Life in Jamaica a Chance!

If you enjoyed this post and want to read more about Retirement in Jamaica, check out my Guest Post on the Retirement and Good Living website.

Thinking of moving to Jamaica

Retirement in Jamaica

I would like to thank the lovely Simone from ‘Retirement and Good Living’, who asked me to write a guest post about retirement in Jamaica. When writing the content for the post it made me think more seriously about what I intend to do with myself when I have to make this choice. If you too are pondering on your retirement, then you may be hard pushed to decide what to do with these ‘freedom years’. The choice of where and how to live is ever-increasing, but with some good impartial advice you will be well on your way to getting the best out of this time of your life.

The ‘Retirement and Good Living’ website has a portfolio of information ranging from financial and health advice to the more fun aspects of retirement locations and what to do with your free time, such as volunteering, knitting jumpers for penguins and other pursuits! Be sure to stop by and take in ‘The Top 10…’ and ‘The Latest On….’ section for up to date information on all the best parts of retiring.

Jamaica has a lot of offer to retiree’s and my guest post gives you the scoop on retirement in Jamaica. You will find full details on a variety of topics such as The Cost of Living, Property Prices, How to Manage on a State Pension, Where to Live, What to do, Transportation, the weather and much more. Stop by and check out the other great features on the Retirement and Good Living website while you are there.

I will give you a small taster of the Guest Post about Retirement in Jamaica that is featured on the Retirement and Good Living website…. but you will have to visit the site for the full post!

Jamaican Fruits and Vegetables
Jamaican Fruits and Vegetables

Pensions and Retirement Age

Living and working in the UK all my life I have witnessed the retirement and pension age steadily rising, with experts claiming that I will have to wait until I am 67 or 68 years old to receive full state pension. When I do receive my State Pension it may equate to between £84.45 and £110.15 a week, which I would be expected to live on in London…. Mmm! I’m not sure that would be possible. The facts are that even as a home owner in the UK, with no mortgage, the cost of living is high and it is viable that the figure I would receive each week would be the same as my monthly heating bill alone.

Thoughts of the huddled, hunched up figures moving around padded with clothes,  their scrunched up ‘sea faring’ face turned away from the cold air, that I had seen in London last month, crossed my mind. Brrrr! There are many pensioners in the UK suffering hardship and it is now becoming more common for this group to pool their resources and buy a property with their grown up children and their families in order to live a more refined life in retirement. Plans for holidays in the sun become more and more enticing, but it is always back to the cold for the majority of the time…

My full post on Retirement and Good Living can be read here…

Thinking of moving to Jamaica

Sweet Jamaica interview on

I had an interesting email earlier this month from the lovely Erin, Content Editor for inviting me to be the next interviewee in their great series of expat interviews. My ‘Sweet Jamaica’ blog is listed on their sister website which features great blogs from Expats from all over the world sharing their experiences of moving overseas.

If you have wanderlust or are planning to emigrate to another country then an Expat Website can be a great place to start as it features impartial life experiences of persons already living overseas. EasyExpat is one such website that has informative Expat Guides,  Forums, Classifieds, Job Listings & More. If you have experiences or queries about living abroad, then get involved on the website as  it enables the community and information sharing to grow. The website can be found at:

They also have a BlogExpat Directory: which features Blogs by Expats and the Expat Interviews can be found at: There is a section that features Expat Author Interviews who have written books, which can be found at:

And last, but not least they also have an Expat Services Site & Guide: Where you can find companies and professional services for all the steps of your relocation abroad. They have specialised services and products to answer your needs for managing your expatriation. You can apply for information and free quotes online and make the best decisions for your move.

This is my Interview…


From London to Ocho Rios: Sweet Jamaica From London to Ocho Rios: Sweet Jamaica

Erin Erin  Date 23 January, 2014 11:18

Sweet Jamaica Hi readers and thank you for taking the time to read this interview. My name is Jules, I am originally from London, but now I live in the sunny and beautiful Caribbean. I have the pleasure of calling Ocho Rios, or Ochi (as we call it), Jamaica my home – the land of wood and water.

1. Why did you move abroad? From the age of 15 I knew I wouldn’t spend all my adult life in the UK, but I didn’t know where I would move to. I love London, but I think living in London can become a trap where you are always pushing for a ‘bigger and better’ everything, whilst quietly thinking ‘will I over work myself before I am able to reach retirement age?’ From the first time I visited Jamaica I fell in love with the freedom, possibility and opportunity on the island and knew I had to find a means someway, somehow, to call it home.

2. How do you make a living?  I do not currently work in Jamaica as there is some bureaucracy to getting a work visa and setting up a business, if you do not have any ancestor or marriage concessions. But, I am in the process of dealing with it and I have lots of exciting projects in the pipeline. I have run a construction business in the UK for the last ten years and I have my blog and an upcoming business ‘LonJam Trading’ which keep me busy for the time being and enable me to ‘pay the bills’ over here. I also help with the local community, farmers group and my adopted schools in rural St. Ann and am also in the early stages of setting up a charity over here too.

3. How often do you communicate with home and how? I am really close to my family and love to keep in touch. It is actually cheaper for me to call the UK than the other way around as there is a great international plan that Digicel offers to call UK landlines, so I tend to do the calling! I usually talk to my Mum every couple of days to catch up with the goings on in London and the business as she stays up late and the time difference doesn’t bother her. I speak to my sisters at least once a week and my friends a few times a month.

To be honest, I have tried Skype but the connection is terrible and it actually becomes an annoying experience instead of fun! I do fly back to London a few times a year as well though and this enables me to catch up and sort myself out before heading back to my beloved Jamaica.

4. What’s your favorite thing about being an expat in Jamaica?  Being able to experience and immerse myself in a different country and all that it has to offer. Plus, as I was raised, educated and have work / business experience in London, I have been exposed to alternative ways of doing things. This has enabled me to gain a skill set that puts me in a position to encourage and mentor people who haven’t had that opportunity, so that they may realise their full potential and entrepreneurial spirit too. Tackling environmental and recycling issues, sustainable living and alternate farming practices are also of great interest to me and in many ways they are in an embryonic stage in Jamaica, this also gives me maneuverability to get involved and help make a difference in a country that I love so much.

5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Jamaica?  Sometimes feeling like all eyes are on me as people are interested to ‘pree’ (look and study) me, so you can lose a sense of anonymity. Also some people will assume things about you from things they have heard about living overseas, and others will offer you ‘tourist’ or uptown prices. I would also like to clarify that people from ‘foreign’ (abroad/overseas) do not have an ATM machine in their navel that gives them money whenever they need it, like most people, we have to work hard to earn money to live! I do find that ‘busting a likkle patois’ tends to make most assumptions about me and the higher prices disappear though!

6. What do you miss most? Aside from thinking about my family and friends a lot and missing out on special occasions with them, I am really happy living in Jamaica so don’t miss much about London. I always wanted to move abroad and I just love Jamaica and all it has to offer. The food over here is delicious and there is so much to do, plus the gorgeous weather is always a massive bonus.

There are times when I do miss the shops in the UK, as good quality items are expensive in Jamaica and on the flip side I miss routing around the £1 shops for bargains!  I sometimes crave foods, such as salt and vinegar walkers, party rings, flour tortilla, or deli foods (cheese, hummus, sundried tomatoes, olives, and pesto) which you cannot buy here, or if you can they are at extortionate prices. Plus other things which I wouldn’t normally eat on a regular basis when back in London…. Such as this evening I made home-made pasta sauce and spaghetti (except after opening the packet I realised it wasn’t spaghetti, but macaroni that was as long as spaghetti – weird!)

7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home? I had the advantage of coming here with Jamaican friends the first time I visited on holiday, so we left the shiny hotels behind and stayed with friends and relatives in their homes. Therefore, I immediately immersed myself in the local lifestyle, culture and community and as Jamaican’s are so friendly I always had someone to talk to.

I must admit on the first trip here the language barrier was sometimes frustrating and other times hilarious as we tried to decipher what each other were saying, especially when in the rural areas where they talk faster and their accents are stronger. But, again I took my time, I people watched, I listened keenly and I learnt the local dialect, so that I could converse with people from all walks of life and feel a part of everything. It is also recommended that you learn the ‘going rate’ for things in Jamaica and familiarise yourself with the currency, so you’re not fumbling around when spending.

Five years later when I decided to try living here I moved to a busier area where I didn’t know anyone, to really test myself and see how I coped on my own in Jamaica. This took me away from my comfort zone and the familiarity, but it forced me to go out there and meet people. Luckily for me I have made friends, some of which are my neighbours who live in the same complex as me, but it took a while, so be patient! If you are wanting to mingle in a less in your face way than going everywhere solo, I would recommend attending church, the gym / sporting activities, joining local community groups, or volunteering with local schools, charities, orphanages or environmental groups. You will be amongst like-minded individuals and will easily find kindred spirits to share your time with in Jamaica, so get creative and think ‘outside of the box’.

8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?  Jamaicans are very direct and have a custom of giving ‘pet names’ (nicknames) to each other, this is often very literal to the individual’s looks or personality traits and would probably be classed as being politically incorrect in the UK. So don’t be surprised if you hear someone being called Fish Head, Knock-Knee, One Foot Man, Blacks, Miss Chin, Indian, and Whitey and so on. However, far from being used as a derogatory insult, it is deemed to be a term of endearment and is not to be taken offensively! To give example, when in the UK a Jamaican meeting his cousins for the first time said ‘What’s up Fatta’ much to the disgust of the rather plump relative. When his mother scolded him afterwards, he retorted ‘What should I call her slimmer?!’, as he genuinely didn’t mean any disrespect and didn’t know why she was so upset!

Jamaican’s much to their credit are very inclusive of all people, and you will see all walks of life included and socialising together. They do not objectify or disassociate from anyone who is less fortunate than themselves, or who for example, has a disability, although many have homophobic tendencies. It is not uncommon to see the young and old mingling together and you will often see examples of this at night spots, or social gatherings where you will find them huddled together playing dominoes, or you will see a man in a wheelchair getting a wild dance from a fit, sexy woman!

9. What is a myth about your adopted country?  That Jamaica is still living in the dark ages and is full of Ganga smoking Rasta’s and / or criminals who want to sell you drugs or harm you! OK it is different to London in many ways, and there are problems here and poverty, but Jamaica is up-to-date with what is going on in the world and is full of mannerly, decent, hard-working, inventive, God fearing individuals. We have internet access, cable TV, the latest gadgets and technology, tools and new cars over here. Plus, all the usual things are on offer over here such as cinema, theatre, stage shows, night clubs, bars, good restaurants, attractions, horse racing, car/motorbike racing, cricket and other sports, museums, art gallery and installations, shopping malls, beaches, basically something to suit all tastes, budgets and age brackets.  There are excellent education facilities, universities and many highly educated and successful people, living in beautiful residences with all the trappings of a westernised culture. To assume that all Jamaicans are illiterate, violent, non-achievers would be a great disrespect and underestimation of all the hard working Jamaican’s over here.

10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life? I was quite surprised at the cost of living in Jamaica when I first came here. Food prices are comparable or higher than in London, for example I can buy 5 plantain in London for £1.00 or $150.00, but it costs $80.00 for 1 plantain in Jamaica! Water and electricity rates are high and I have to wonder how many of the poorer people and business owners here cope with this expenditure. Electrical items, cars and all imported goods (except cheap Chinese goods) are very expensive and much more so than London. But overall my living expenses are lower than in London and I live an enjoyable, but not excessive lifestyle. Like London you can live high class here, 5 star all the way if you want to go all out, but at the same time you can live more economically if that suits you too.

11. What advice would you give other expats?  First and foremost I would say that Jamaicans are very proud, they can be very direct when talking to you and aren’t shy to express themselves. Remember that we are all people and have the same bodily functions, so you are not better than anyone else – you will be setting yourself up to fail and may receive feelings of contempt if you portray yourself as better than others. Get out there and experience the people and the culture, for they will become your friends, colleagues, neighbours and fellow community members.  Speak to strangers politely and formerly, as it traditional to use the prefix ‘Miss’, ‘Aunty’ or ‘Mr’ and so on, especially when speaking to those who are older than you. Don’t get a false sense of security, or lock yourself up indoors because you are in another country. I would always advise that using common sense, not getting involved in matters that don’t concern you and not being too ‘out there’ as this will keep you out of most discrepancies. What we would class as ‘chit chat’ in the UK, some Jamaican’s would find as being nosey, so don’t get all up in people’s business or ask too many questions about their personal life.

From the first time I visited Jamaica on holiday in 2006, I made it my point of duty to check out the local EVERYTHING as I knew I wanted to live here! If you are planning to move to Jamaica, I would advise coming here first, live amongst the locals and see if you can manage it. It is important to check out different areas and find out about the local amenities, as at some point you will need food, household and personal items, utilities, a bank, post office and so on, so it makes sense to find out if all you need is on offer. Gated communities offer many people peace of mind, whilst living in more remote places suits others – talk to people who have a connection with the area, or other expats.

Expat websites and forums such as and are a great impartial way to glean information about the neighbourhood and get the inside scoop on living there.

Oh, and make sure you buy or bring plenty of sealable containers to store food stuffs, as Jamaican insects and creatures are very wily and will find a way to taste your favourite foods and invest in stainless steel as everything else rusts really quickly!

12. When and why did you start your blog? I started my blog in 2012 as a way of sharing my experiences of living in Jamaica.

This is my interview which was originally featured on, the original can be found here…

If you enjoyed this interview and my blog then please take one minute to click here and vote for ‘Sweet Jamaica’ blog. Thanks, safe travels 🙂

Sweet Jamaica
Sweet Jamaica


Thinking of moving to Jamaica

Bugs… I found a cool Beetle in Jamaica


[text_justify]Not a fan of insects? This beetle I found in Jamaica caught my eye as it was such a cool bug, but what is it?[/text_justify]


May is ‘Bug Month’ in Jamaica


[text_justify]After finding all kinds of bugs in my apartment in a matter of hours, my Jamaican friend commented in a knowing way that May is ‘Bug Month’ in Jamaica… Great, I have lived through many things but can I manage a whole month of bugs, insects and beetles?

I have a confession to make, after watching the animated movie ‘A Bugs Life’ I will never be able to look at bugs in the same way again (as long as we aren’t talking about cockroaches or slugs). The film cleverly depicts bugs with big characters and personalities, so when I see them now I always think about their daily escapades in the big wide world and think twice about killing them.

With this in mind I was especially intrigued to see this strange looking bug in my apartment today and thought it looked pretty cool. I don’t recall ever seeing one before, but as far as bugs go it was quite beautiful on closer inspection!  My Jamaican friend couldn’t remember the name of it, but they did comment that it left a horrible scent if it walked on you, so although I wanted to rescue it back outdoors I didn’t want it to touch me. Grabbing a small punched tin tea light holder I scooped it up and took it outside, but the more I looked at it, the more I loved the ‘design’ of the bug.



The ‘unidentified’ bug was a fantastic shape and appeared to mimic a leaf, maybe as a means of camouflage. It was mottled green on its back, with bright lime and purple coloured lines around the edges of the tough wing case and the translucent wing tips were visible and neatly folded over one another underneath. The head had two curious looking ‘horns’ that looked like the ‘stem’ of a leaf… another camouflage technique?  When I looked at the photographs up close I realised that it looked as if it had four eyes, two of which were large and grey in colour and on the sides of the long face, with two smaller black eyes nearer to the back of the ‘face’.

If anyone knows the local name of the bug please let me know…[/text_justify]


When in Jamaica be Conscientious

Whilst we as temporary visitors or returning residents may worry about how far our hard-earned pound or dollar is going to last in Jamaica for the duration of our stay. There is a real situation out there for the poor and disadvantaged in Jamaica. Many Jamaicans have have never had the opportunity to leave Jamaica to earn a foreign ‘dollar’ and experience living in another country. This causes some Jamaican’s to have stereotypical views of foreigners as being wealthy and having easily affordable and replaceable stuff.

Yes, you will find people in Jamaica who prefer to shub out their hand rather than try and find work, the same as in any other country. The UK is certainly just as bad, if not worse for this trait with people taking advantage of the welfare system. But, look beyond this because The Fact Is: Life is hard for the average working class Jamaican.

At times you may have felt the victim of a Jamaican assuming that life is a bed of roses ‘dere a foreign’ (abroad), or got annoyed at a vendor trying to sell you their wares, or the beggar on the street stretching out their hand to you, but there is more to the situation than first appears…. Let me break down what I have gleaned about the living expenses versus wages earned in Jamaica debate and see if I can shift your opinion even slightly.

Jamaican Living Expenses

The Jamaican Government taxes most purchases 20% (General Consumption Tax), so that means every day grocery prices are sky-high and it is cheaper to buy plantain and bananas in London than it is in Jamaica and you can easily spend $5,000 a week or more (if you are frugal) on household shopping if you live outside of the country areas; this post: has more information on this.


Additionally, JPS (Jamaica Public Service) the sole electricity supplier in Jamaica has some of the highest rates for electricity I have ever come across, having paid bills of up to $8,000 a month for a one bedroom apartment; again this has been broken down in a former post, which can be found here:

Hi-Lo Receipt Jamaica
Hi-Lo Receipt Jamaica


Household Expenses in Jamaica

Where residents have piped water the N.W.C (National Water Commission) also charges steeply and you can expect to pay at least $2,000 a month for the supply.

Rent can be anywhere from $9,000 a month for a room to $50,000 and more for a one bedroom apartment in the popular busy areas that have more work opportunities.

If you have children, you need to supply uniforms, books and school bags and you will need to find around $80 a day for lunch and breaks per child for primary school age children, plus school fees, travelling expenses and lunch money for the high school age children.

All this is before you have paid for your own lunch and travelling expenses to even get to work, which may equate to up to $1,000 a day depending on how far away from your workplace that you live.

We haven’t started on expenditure for clothes, household items, healthcare, leisure, beauty products and so on. With these few examples of living expenses, can you start to identify with the problems some Jamaicans have with managing to live off of their income?

JPS Bill Jamaica
JPS Bill Jamaica


Be Conscientious….

To further put things into perspective I heard an advert on the radio for The National Housing Trust Jamaica, that was offering assistance to low-income workers to own their own home and it stated that hotel workers earning less than $10,000 a week could apply. That equates to about £68.02 for a long and hard weeks work at todays going rate, sometimes with little thanks from the guests or mega rich hoteliers.  I could have cried at the injustice and further understood why there is such a tipping culture in Jamaica.

To add insult to injury I saw a massive billboard for a very large and famous Jamaican hotel chain which was celebrating its anniversary. Most startling about the prominently placed billboard was that the hotel chain was boasting that it brought in the most foreign exchange into the country…. Umm, if that is the case, then why aren’t the hotel workers that enable you to earn those ridiculous profits earning more money then?

I then heard another article on Irie FM radio station, that stated that persons in Barbados earn around double what Jamaicans earn, and those from Trinidad earn around 4 times what Jamaicans earn for doing the same type of work. All of these countries are based in the same region and yet the similarities end there as the poverty gap widens due to anomalies in earning capacity and incomes.

If you look in The Gleaner (Jamaican national newspaper) there are vacancies advertised where the average low-income worker can expect to earn up to $1,000 a day for casual work, or for other jobs that are classed as ‘menial’ work, tradespeople can earn sometimes $2,000 – $3,000 per day, restaurant workers could earn maybe $7,000 a week…. Jamaica does not have a welfare or benefits system like we have in the UK or USA, where the Government is able to hand out hundreds of pounds to citizens.  Anyone can do the maths, this makes the living conditions and constraints hard for the everyday person in Jamaica.

Think about it when you complain about the attitude of some of the staff or those who look for a tip in Jamaica. If you were earning less than £100.00 for a 6 day week would you not feel over worked and under paid and perhaps you too would be looking for a way to boost your income in a way that prevented you from relying on criminal activities?

With all this to consider and with the unemployment figures rising in Jamaica, it is time for all of us to look at the hard-working and trying Jamaicans in a different light. Not everyone has had the means, education, opportunity, luck or otherwise to get an ‘office job’ or  a ‘9 to 5’ as we would call it in the UK, so please ‘mi a beg yuh du’ next time you come across a vendor, higgler, shop or hotel worker, gas pump attendant, farmer and so on, don’t just ignore them or treat them with contempt, support their endeavours where you can and do it with a smile! As they in their own small way are forging a path for themselves and their dependants to somehow, someway, ‘tek a ruff life easy’. If you are unable to support them, or don’t want to spend that day, a simple ‘No, thanks’ will do and they will leave you alone!

The National Housing Trust (NHT)

For those that don’t know, the National Housing Trust (NHT) was set up by the Government of Jamaica to lend money at low-interest rates to those contributors who either want to buy, build, repair, or improve their homes, or for those who wish to build or buy on lots. They also develop housing schemes across the island for sale to contributors and they give low-cost financing to private developers. They have become very successful in collecting billions of dollars in revenue and interest from the loans, so much so that they have been at the centre of a debate in parliament as whether to raid the piggy bank over the next few years to help alleviate the debt crisis in Jamaica.

In reality this means that all persons in Jamaica aged between 18 years old and retirement age, whom are in legal employment (whether employed or self-employed) are expected to pay 3% of their income (3% gross for employed persons and 3% net for self-employed persons) into the National Housing Trust Scheme. Should the person need a low-interest loan from the NHT they must have been paying this contribution for a least 52 weeks, before they can even apply to use the highly over subscribed loan service. If contributors do not wish to apply for a loan based on these contributions for a home, they have to wait 8 years before being able to apply for a refund of these contributions. There are other stipulations to these contributions which are described in-depth and more information on the organisation can be found on their website, at

Amusing Real Stories From Jamaica #1

Jamaica is an island where you will see things you have never seen before, these are a couple of my Jamaica firsts!

Toad on a Rope

My Mum had come to visit me in Jamaica and I decided to take her to visit some relatives in the countryside of St. Ann. We set out in a Toyota Hiace bus (van) on a clear and sunny day, and drove the usual route past Brown’s Town and Calderwood, deeper into the green and mountainous interior. On approaching a hill, I noticed 3 people at the top who were crossing the road, so I slowed down to let them pass comfortably. As we reached the brow of the hill I noticed one of them was leading something along into the road in front of me….

then I realised it was a massive toad with a piece of string tied around its neck! As we approached the group the one with the toad said

“drive pon it nah mon!”

basically urging me to drive over it and kill it. I quickly thought about the poor toad and it’s splattered guts all over the bus and having to clean it off and replied “Noooo, it’s too crawny!” to which they all fell about laughing. They duly led the toad out of the road and let me drive past, assumingly to wait for the next driver to come along!  *Many Jamaicans seem to be very scared of toads and believe they can be used by Obeah for casting spells on people.

Your Eye Nar Mek Good!

My vehicle was always giving me problems starting, as the battery wouldn’t charge properly. I begrudged paying $18,000 for a new one, as I was leaving the country in a few more weeks, which meant the bus would be parked up again resulting in the new battery dying in the same way. This meant I was always having to park on a hill (I kid you not!) hoping no-one would block me in, so I could roll the vehicle in order to give myself a ‘juk start’ when I was ready to leave! If this wasn’t possible I had to rely on a friend or a kind-hearted soul to push the vehicle to get the famous ‘juk start’, or if I was really lucky, I would find someone with jump leads to give me a ‘ol fashioned jump-start…. when I say jump leads they are normally just two pieces of strong wire which they simply hold onto the connectors on the batteries, sparks flying and all! (you have to love the tenacity and improvisation skills of Jamaican’s!)

One morning I was late and the vehicle wouldn’t start despite all the pleading in the world, which eventually turned into threatening through gritted teeth that I would sell it if it didn’t start…. needless to say, none of it worked. I needed a plan with a strong man. There is a large hardware store at the end of the road where I live, so I decided to wander up there to see if I could persuade some of the big strapping men that load the goods into the waiting trucks, to give me a ‘juk’ start.

As I walked up there feeling a bit nervous about asking for help, I noticed a boy of about 7 years old in among all the men in their overalls, leaning up against the fence watching me walk up the side road towards the entrance. As I got nearby he called out to me “Hey pretty lady!”, I smiled and walked over towards them thinking this will be easy now the ice had been broken. When I got to the fence and the little boy I said to him “Hi, whats up?” and he and the men all smiled broadly at me. Next thing, before I could ask for their help I noticed the little boys eyes all widened as he looked into my face and replied to me

“lady u pretty, but your eye nar mek good!”,

I had to laugh out loud with everyone else as I can only guess he wasn’t so used to seeing blue eyes and thought my light coloured eyes hadn’t been made correctly! When all the laughter had subsided and I was able to explain my plight nearly all the men flew over the fence to give me a ‘juk start’ much to the bemusement of the supervisor!

Jamaican Postal System

Due to the logistics of Jamaica many addresses do not include a door number, street or road name, merely a district and parish. This makes it virtually impossible for post workers to circumnavigate the island delivering post to every individual residential and business place in Jamaica on a daily basis as we are used to in the UK.

I have to admit that was all I did know about the Jamaican postal system from my travels here over the years. But it wasn’t until I was looking on the Internet for a way to send something to the UK from Jamaica that I came across Jamaica Post, the Postal Corporation of Jamaica and was amazed at the reasonable postal prices and the amount of services it offered.

So in my quest to encourage everyone to  ‘SUPPORT JAMAICA BUY JAMAICAN!’ and raise awareness of Jamaica’s industries, companies, outstanding individuals and products, I present to you my first profile on Jamaica Post and ask,

“Instead of using that big foreign courier company, why not give Jamaica Post the business?”

Brief History of Jamaican Postal Service

Don’t get me wrong Jamaica does have a postal service, just not as we know it! Lets have a very brief condensed history lesson to get this straight….

 Way back in 1671, 31st October to be exact, Jamaica became the first British Colony to set up a Post Office in the then capital St. Jago De La Vega, or Spanish Town as it now known. The early settlers had complained that the mail delivery was too slow, so the Governor of Jamaica was instructed to open a Post Office to facilitate a more efficient service. Edward Dismore was eventually appointed as the first Postmaster General of Jamaica in 1754 and proceeded to widen the service by opening a series of Post Offices across the island, many of which remain today as Main Post Offices.

The main Post Office moved from Spanish Town to Kingston in 1776, and although it has moved sites several times it remains in the capital of Jamaica. In 1860 the biggest change occurred in the history of the Jamaican Post Office as it gained full managerial and operational power from the British and the first beautiful and distinctive Jamaican stamps were created and put into circulation. In the 1970’s a grand modernisation programme of the head office was instigated and since the 1980’s the main Post Office has boasted a modern facility with an automated central sorting office.

Mr Michael Gentles has been Postmaster General of Jamaica and the Chief Executive Officer of The Postal Corporation of Jamaica since 1st August 2006. He is much celebrated (and rightly so) as his many forward thinking advancements and modernisations to the Post Offices services and operations have in turn increased customer perception and satisfaction with the service. The Postal Corporation of Jamaica Ltd, has turned itself around and with Mr. Gentles at the reins it now offers more services and has improved dramatically, as you shall see for yourself.


Mr Michael Gentles Postmaster General of Jamaica
Mr Michael Gentles Postmaster General of Jamaica

Post Office Services

Jamaican Main Post Offices are open between 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Mondays to Fridays and offer a full range of postal services.

Whereas, the Postal Agencies only run on a part-time basis, offering a restricted range of postal services. The full range of services available include:

  • Sale of judicial and National Insurance Stamps (NIS)
  • Acceptance and delivery of letters and parcels
  • Sale of philatelic products
  • Sale & encashment of Postal Money Orders
  • Acceptance and delivery of Registered Mail
  • Express Mail (EMS)
  • Facilitating pre-paid postage
  • Provision of private letter boxes
  • Zip Mail
  • Advertising mail
  • Postal Order (Jamaican $)
  • Community Bulletin (Varies at each Postal Location)

For an up to date price list please check the Jamaica Post website rates. 

Agency Services

Now that PostCorp has made commercial agreements with other companies, the Post Office is able to offer a portfolio of added services enabling you to deal with many other personal administration tasks at the same time, including:

  • Bill payments
  • Document reproduction and facsimile services
  • Gaming products
  • Internet Kiosks
  • Water Coupon
  • Moneygram
  • Jamaica Urban Transit Corporation Smart Card
  • Cool Card
  • PATH
  • Newspaper sales
  • DHL
  • Automated Banking Machine (JN, BNS)
  • Jamaica National Small Business Loans (Varies at each Postal Location)

Collecting Mail in Jamaica

Unless you have a private mail box with your own key, or have an address that has a delivery service, you won’t know if anything has been delivered for you unless you go to the local Post Office and ask. Just tell them your name and address and they will look and see if anything has come for you. Don’t forget, if anyone plans to send something to you and asks for your address, make sure you tell them to include the name of the local post office on the address printed on the front of the article.

Sending Mail From Jamaica

If you want to send something either domestically (within Jamaica) or overseas, there are many services available from Jamaica Post some of which I have outlined:

Domestic Mail (First Class)

The First-Class Mail service can be used within Jamaica (from a Jamaican address to another Jamaican address) for sending letters, postcards, postal cards, greeting cards, personal notes, checks, and money orders. They provide other services for registered mail, restricted delivery, certificates of mailing and postal insurance; anything insured at first-class rate must only contain merchandise or material, not required to be sent as first-class mail. The Post Office aims to deliver First-class Mail within 2 days to local address and 3 days for other non-local (and some rural) addresses.

Registered Mail

If you are sending something of value (there is no limit to the value) within Jamaica it is best to use Registered Mail, as it provides limited indemnity in case of loss or damage.  This delivery type usually takes 2 – 3 business days. As this type of mail provides maximum security, it must be deposited as specified by the Postal Service. Additionally, this type of mail is forwarded and returned without any more charges. In you need to make a claim, compensation is given dependant on the value of the item at the time of sending; insurance is not available for articles of no value. When you send an article by Registered Mail you will receive:

  1. A receipt.
  2. A record of delivery, retained by the Postal Service for a specified period of time.
  3. When registered mail is undeliverable-as-addressed and cannot be forwarded, a notice of non-delivery is provided.

Zip Mail©

If you feel the First-Class domestic service isn’t fast enough for you, when sending correspondence, business documents, printed matter, and lightweight merchandise (e.g. product samples) then try the next day 24 hour turnaround service Zip Mail©.  As long as you get the mail to them before the cut off time and it is well labelled, they guarantee delivery by the next day, to addresses where they usually deliver mail, or to the local Post Office for collection. The largest size for Zip Mail© deliveries is 108 inches in length and girth combined, and the greatest weight is 20 lbs; your local post office will supply Zip Mail© stickers at no extra charge if you ask for them.

Sending Parcels Overseas from Jamaica

Jamaica Post also offers a worldwide parcel delivery service for packages up to 10 kilo. They have a smart rate calculator on their website where you can input the country of delivery and the weight and it will give you an estimate.

This link is for the Jamaica Post Parcel Rate Calculator. Where you can check out rates for other countries:


Jamaica Post Express Mail
Jamaica Post Express Mail

Express Mail Service (EMS)

Jamaica Post also offers ‘Express Mail Service (EMS)’, a fast, cost-effective and secure international courier service. This service enables you to send packages from 1 once to 22 pounds in weight (dependant on the destination) and reaches destinations in 3-5 working days; flight schedules allowing.

Most of the Main and larger Post Offices across the Jamaica offer the service, where you can buy the distinctive orange and blue striped packages.

The closing times for EMS items can be obtained by calling 1-888-526-7676 or 922-9448.

The service is available to the following countries:

  • CARIBBEAN (ie. Antigua, Barbados, Grand Cayman, Grenada, Trinidad & Tobago, St. Lucia)

Track and Trace

Jamaica Post offers modern parcel tracking for EMS parcels to the UK, USA and Canada. There is a link on their website to track and trace the journey of your goods from Jamaica to its final destination.

All EMS items can be tracked and traced in-house. Internet tracking via the Jamaica Post website is available on our home page for the following countries:

  1. United Kingdom (Royal Mail)
  2. USA (USPS)
  3. Canada (Canada Post)

Customers can track their items via these websites by using the “TRACK & CONFIRM” feature, or by calling the Customer Service Unit at the Central Sorting Office in Kingston, Jamaica, at Tel: 876-922-9448 in order to ascertain the delivery status of their items. In order to assist you when you call, our pleasant, helpful Customer Service Representatives will need to know the tracking (“registration”) number, so please have this information on hand.

The mail item will be checked for compliance with international security regulations and therefore must not be sealed prior to being submitted at the customer service desk.

Express Mail does not transport cash, dangerous goods, hazardous materials or any articles restricted by the country of destination.

All shipments must include addressee’s complete address, postcode, if any, and phone number.
To avoid any inconvenience, all items being sent for repair or replacement should be declared to the postal clerk before being sent abroad.

All non-documents (dutiable items) must be accompanied by a Commercial Invoice. These items are liable to customs clearance on arrival at the country of destination. This may also affect the transit time of the item.

Items Prohibited from Sending Through The Post

Although Jamaica Post does its best to serve its customers, they do have a list of prohibited items that it will not deliver for you, which I have copied from their website. These include:

It is prohibited to send by post:

  1. Dangerous articles (including explosives), inflammable, noxious, filthy deleterious or otherwise harmful substances; sharp instruments, not properly protected; Matches.
  2. Any indecent or obscene print, painting, photograph, lithography engraving cinematographic film, book card, written communication or any indecent or obscene article.
  3. Any article having thereon on the cover there of any words, marks or designs of an indecent, obscene, seditious, scurrilous, threatening or grossly offensive character.
  4. Any article consisting of or containing opium, morphia, cocaine or other narcotics except those forwarded for medical or scientific purposes to countries which permit them to be sent.
  5. Any article containing medicine of any kind unless the formula or the content is printed clearly on the container in English or French. Medications intended for the external or internal treatments of venereal disease are not permitted even if they comply with this condition.
  6. Living animals except bees, silkworms and leeches packed in accordance with regulations
  7. Articles which from their nature or packing may expose postal officials or any other person to danger or may soil or damage other articles or postal equipment in the course of conveyance.
  8. Any article containing or bearing any fictitious postage stamp or counterfeit impression of a stamping machine; purporting to be prepaid with any postage stamp which has been previously used to prepay any other postal article or other revenue duty or tax; or having thereon or on the cover thereof any words or letters or marks (used without due authorisation) which signify, or imply or may reasonably lead the recipient thereof to believe that the postal article is sent on Government Service.
  9. Any article containing coin or gold bullion exceeding ten dollars in value except coins used or designed for ornamental purposes and declared as such.
  10. Any article prohibited by the postal, customs or other laws or regulations of the country or place the article is being posted to or which it is addressed or through which it must pass.
  11. Carbon soiled paper, liquid celluloid, oilskins and similarly oiled goods.
  12. Soil
  13. Perishable articles except when addressed to destinations within the island or when enclosed in a hermitically sealed tin.
  14. Liquid unless packed as provided within specified postal regulations.
  15. Articles composed wholly or partly thereof raw celluloid roll film and cinematography films unless packed as provided within specified postal regulations.
  16. Articles consisting of or containing two or more postal articles (of the same or different inscriptions) addressed to two different persons who are at different addresses.
  17. Articles infringing trademark or copyright laws.
  18. Articles having anything written, printed or otherwise impressed across the postage stamp thereon before posting.

Apart from the prohibitions mentioned above, many countries abroad for various reasons impose restrictions on the importation of certain articles. Prohibitions and restrictions for other countries may be found here:

Parcels containing articles known to be prohibited from importation into the country of destination are not forwarded but are returned to the senders; parcels declared to contain articles of which importation is permitted only under certain conditions will generally speaking be accepted and dispatched.

The onus of compliance with these conditions rests with the sender; and Jamaica Post and by extension the Post and Telecommunications Department accepts no responsibility for the return or seizure of any parcel through the failure of the sender or addressee to comply with the necessary formalities.

Montego Bay: 10 Harbour Circle (off Howard Cooke Blvd. between LOJ shopping Center and Pier 1)

To finish

I would like to once again urge everyone to use Jamaica Post, instead of one of the large international couriers. Why? Firstly, they give  great service, which is cost effective, safe and efficient. Secondly, in order to build Jamaica we need to use, publicise and generate customers to buy into all that is great in Jamaica, whether that be Jamaican companies, products, industries, individuals, brands or initiatives.

Jamaica Post has its ‘purpose’ written on their website which I believe sums it all up perfectly….

Our purpose is to provide every household and business in Jamaica with the ability to communicate and conduct business with each other and the world efficiently, effectively and economically.








Love Jamaica? Then you can help support the economy by purchasing Jamaican made goods and products…

This post is the result of an idea that has bubbled around in my head for sometime. How can I make a difference to Sweet, Sweet Jamaica, the land that I love? To travel here and enjoy all that the country has to offer, is one way of raising the Jamaican economy and profile, but I feel there has to be more to it than that. Jamaica is more than the sum of its tourist industry. What about the everyday Jamaicans that have probably never stayed in the big hotels they see springing up all over the island, how can we help to support them?

Employment Figures In Jamaica

The government statistics state that unemployment levels in Jamaica had risen to 14.3% in April 2012, up from 12.4% two years earlier. In order to curb unemployment levels and build the Jamaican economy we need to support home-grown manufacturers and producers of goods and products. This will increase demand and productivity levels, enabling the expansion of these companies, which will in turn increase demand for labour ~ and the employment of more Jamaicans. Simple Really.


“Jamaica needs to start at ‘grass roots’ level, meaning that we should practise what we preach.”

Be Proud Of Jamaican Made Goods

What puzzles me is that I have never met a nation that is so proud of their country as Jamaica and its people. Yet, there seems to be a strong desire among Jamaicans to have internationally branded products in their homes and workplaces, over and above locally produced Jamaican goods.

Additionally, it is all very well to publicise the desire to increase exports and decrease imports into the country,  whilst attempting to draw in overseas companies to set up businesses or invest in Jamaica. But, if you aren’t supporting your own, why would anyone else want to?

Lets Break it Down!

If every one of us living and working in Jamaica makes a conscious effort to buy Jamaican products, instead of the international imported brands it will make a difference to the country. How does this work? Simple…

If we all made it our responsibility to seek out and buy Jamaican manufactured goods it would raise the profile, manufacturing capabilities and employment figures of these companies. By being awarded bigger contracts these manufacturers are afforded the chance of investing money back into their companies, further increasing their production levels and creating new jobs for more Jamaicans.

To a certain degree any product is only as good as its marketing and branding strategies. The more people see and hear about a product being used by others, the more it heightens their belief and desirability levels for the product too, thus increasing sales. In other words it is the general public who buy into products and brands making them popular, because after all we all like to keep up with ‘the Joneses’ (with each other). If we as a collective whole make a stand and deem that Jamaican products are ‘trendy’ and desirable as displayed through our buying power, then they will be. Watch and See!

How We Can Make A Difference

People living and working in Jamaica and fans of Jamaica from overseas, can make a difference to  the economy by familiarising yourself with Jamaican born companies.  Start purchasing products that have been grown, manufactured, made or produced in Jamaica.

When buying grocery shopping, cosmetics / toiletries, or products for the home, look for Jamaican grown, made or manufactured products and companies, instead of international brands. Eat fresh locally produced foods that are in season, get back into eating ground provisions – good old ‘hard food’, instead of cooking imported rice or flour (dumplings and fritters) every day.

In the workplace, if you are in charge of purchasing goods, materials, and products seek out Jamaican producers, manufacturers and suppliers of the goods that your business needs.

There are many ways you can support Jamaican Manufacturers as they are highly skilled in many areas, such as:

  • Chemicals, Cosmetics and Pharmaceuticals Products
  • Electrical, Electronics and Automotive Products
  • Foods and Agro Products
  • Furniture, Wooden and Bedding Products
  • Gold and Silversmith Products
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Minerals and Metals Products
  • Printing, Packaging and Paper Products
  • Textile and Sewn Products


Major Players In the Growth of Jamaica’s Economy

Apart the general public’s purchasing power there are other major players in Jamaica that can make a difference to the economy. That is the working public, at all levels of employment. Every business place in Jamaica has someone in charge of purchasing, whether that be the secretary that buys stationary and sends post, to the purchasers of raw foodstuffs and materials in manufacturing firms, to hotels and financial institutions that buy furniture, equipment and manufactured goods and products, and not forgetting the hardworking higgler or vendor that sells everyday products.
If you work in an ‘office environment’ it could be something as simple as offering genuine Jamaican bottled water, coffee, tea and snacks at meetings, purchasing stationary and furniture from Jamaican manufacturers, buying Jamaican paper products for the rest rooms and the printer and so on…
There is also a myriad of other Jamaican entrepreneurs who work in creative industries, such as, marketing and branding companies, website building companies, videography, cinematography, production, photography, printers and so on, give them your business…
If you work in a retail outlet, hotel or tourist site, buy, use and re-sell Jamaican made foodstuffs, furniture, stationary, uniforms, paper products, cleaning products, cosmetics and so on…
Use your imagination, set your children the task to look for Jamaican made products when shopping and buy them…

Major Jamaican Players That Can Make A Difference

As individuals we are more powerful when we come together to achieve something, but there are other mass purchasers of products and goods that have far bigger spending power than us. Who are they? Private and Public Companies. Let me introduce some of the major players who I feel should be more aware of their actions and ought to be taking the Jamaican economy seriously, by utilising Jamaican grown businesses when purchasing goods and products:

  1. Jamaican government bodies, including their  institutions, agencies, associations  and organisations, such as, courts, schools, hospitals, emergency services….
  2. Hotels and tourist industry businesses….
  3. Retail outlets, including supermarkets, department stores, boutiques and vendors….
  4. Financial and Insurance Companies….
  5. Overseas Companies with offices in Jamaica….
  6. Manufacturing and Processing Plants….

To Finish

In my quest to encourage everyone to  ‘SUPPORT JAMAICA BUY JAMAICAN!’ and to raise the profile of Jamaica’s industries, manufacturers, farmers, companies, outstanding individuals, products and brands, I shall be writing profiles on Jamaican people and companies big and small in the hope of making my ‘likkle’ contribution to Jamaica.

Remember, buying locally not only ensures the livelihood of Jamaican companies, it also assists in the creation of new jobs which helps to kick-start other areas of the economy as well. Think About It – Make Your Contribution.

Or, as they would say in Jamaica ‘one, one coco full basket’, in other words every little bit helps – if we all make a small contribution to something, it will succeed and overflow in the end!

Sweet Jamaica ~ Jamaica’s Sweet!

Gated Luxury Communities in Jamaica

What could be more ideal than to have your luxury Jamaican home ready to move into and in a secure and well-kept gated community? Maybe all is not as it seems in some of these ‘man-made’ communities as I discovered after staying with a returning resident friend in their beautiful home. I was amazed to hear about the comings and goings, politics, back-handers and more, it was easily enough drama for a Jamaican Housewives T.V. show to be made all about it!

I will spill and give you the best high(low)lights, but I will keep the development name and location a secret to protect my lovely friend from any more unfortunate incidences. Please note that this article is indicative of one individual persons experience of living in a gated development in Jamaica as told to me over two visits to their home.  For the purposes of the article I shall call my friend *’Ashley’.

I will admit to sometimes browsing through the adverts for gated communities in Jamaica, scanning the prices and looking wistfully at the beautiful properties imagining living there. But after my short stay in a gated residence my views have changed somewhat and the rose-tinted spectacles have been somewhat removed!

What are Gated communities All About?

Many people who dream of having a second home, or return back to live full-time in Jamaica decide to buy on or off plan from one of the developers that are springing up all over the island. This is usually for the Peace of Mind of:

  • living in a secure gated community.
  • not having to manage a building project whilst being overseas.

The developers show images and plans for residents living in luxury homes, on perfect streets with beautiful surroundings and communal areas for swimming, eating and meeting up. But the reality of the development that I visited was very different as it s-l-o-w-l-y filled up, residents started to come and go and the excitement of the initial opening  and interaction of the community drifted away. Some houses were taken by international music artists, whilst other houses were eventually bought, but left unkempt and empty.

What to Exect When You Move Into Your Gated Community

If you visit the site before purchasing a property you should be shown the ‘pegs’ that lay out the parameters of the Plots, including your garden area – make a photographic and signed record of this using fixed objects, such as, a lamp-post or fire hydrant to help accurately depict the location. Just in case they have magically moved decreasing the exterior land size after you have put down a deposit or paid in full.

The exterior of the house is unfinished meaning extra money was required for:

  • The driveway was a plain concrete screed, wide enough for one vehicle, and which stopped about 18″ (1.5ft) short of the ‘porch/front verandah’. You were free to tile, pave (and so on), increase the size to a double car width (eliminating your front garden) and ‘join’ it seamlessly to the front of the property.
  • The house has no physical boundaries present. That is to say there are no fences or gateways to the houses, creating private areas. Boundaries must be put up at a designated height and style to keep a uniform look.
  • The garden only consists of a lawn. You must plant your own trees, plants and shrubs.
  • Wooden carports and balconies can be added to the properties to match the style of the others already present on the site.
  • Other verandah type structures are permitted but must have the same type roofing as the main buildings.
  • The ‘grounds’ of the gated community are not overly planted and residents were gaining permission from the Office to add plants and trees.
  • The ‘corner’ properties had grass verges that some residents ‘captured’ and planted up to create larger front garden areas.

Who Lives in Gated Communities?

Jamaica has a melting pot of residents buying into the properties on gated developments, but most are bought by professionals or wealthy globe trotters. ‘Ashley’ commented that when they first moved in, primarily returning residents from the UK or USA bought up the properties. After 3 years of living there the shift of residents has moved to mainly Chinese and Indian business owners and professionals, with a smattering of American and European people joining them. This made distinct micro communities within the development and these different cultures kept themselves to themselves dissipating the ‘we are one’ village feel and making some residents feel isolated and unwelcome.

There is a universal hierarchy to the development too, with snobbery, constant one-upmanship and reverence given to residents that are doctors, lawyers and respected business owners over residents that worked as tradespeople or care workers. Persons who were deemed to be single, or non-married where also held with somewhat contempt too by the others. This favouritism can run to the point of preferential treatment from the office staff and the snubbing and belittling of the unpopular or unwanted residents by those wanting to be ‘in with the in crowd’.

Unfair Play and Back-Handers

One of the things that most amazed me about the development and ‘Ashley’s’ experience was that there were so many incidents of theft.  Unbeknown to ‘Ashley’ the Sales Office staff did not hand over all the sets of keys for the property when they first moved in.  So, every time ‘Ashley’ left Jamaica the Sales Staff were letting themselves into the house and basically helping themselves to whatever they wanted which, included pots, pans, other assorted kitchen items, bedding and even the shower curtain; which was what eventually gave the game away as it was so obviously missing and drew suspicions.

A garden hose, various small trees, palms, flowers and other planting was physically dug out of the ground and stolen from the front garden after Ashley bought it and bedded it in. Other established plants and trees were hacked by neighbours who were later oblivious to it ever happening despite it being blindly obvious who had done it.

When tradespeople came to do work on the house they rifled through draws and helped themselves to household items and bits and pieces of tools and other materials they could make use of. Jewellery was stolen right from under their nose, when some post building cleaning was being carried out in the house.

Poor workmanship was carried out when making repairs or snagging and it took ages and a multitude of missed appointments before the tradespeople turned up, if at all. This was potentially because the tradespeople seemed to all be friends of the Office Staff and back-handers seemed to be prevalent in ensuring the work was handed out to their preferred suppliers; even if this meant severe delays caused by the (over) workload. There was even an incident of catching one of the Office Staff watching porn when they claimed to be too busy to leave the office and do something within the grounds of the development!

As the development offered the service of finding tenants for certain owners and investors, there were incidences of properties being let out by the Office Staff without the knowledge of the owners and without them getting payment for it.

Piles of rubbish, garden waste and pruned trees would turn up on the grass verge outside ‘Ashley’s’ house which other residents have dumped and the Office Staff would make to complaints about it, despite it being nothing to do with them.

One of the other residents damaged ‘Ashley’s’ property and when it was reported to the Police it was ‘paid off’ and the incident never had a proper statement taken in order for it to stand to trial.

There were thriving clubs to join when the development first opened and a lively bar and restaurant, unfortunately three years down the line these facilities have closed down or diminished and the micro-communities have their own events and gatherings.

Things to Remember…

Security is one of the main reasons for living on a gated development, but sometimes the devil is among those who are supposed to be looking out for you. Change the locks when you move in and save yourself the headache of unwanted and uninvited persons from entering your home.

If you are to be away from the property for extended periods of time be aware that the house will not be ‘aired’ and the heat generated in the property will be immense, these factors can create all types of unwanted problems. Insect infestations, especially ants are common as they have all the freedom and uninterrupted time to make your home theirs, eating away at wooden areas and destroying the beauty of it. Your furniture will also swell and shrink in the changing temperatures of the property, which can even cause a 10ft solid wood dining table to warp and fabrics to ‘burn’ in the sun.

Be careful who you trust to come into your home to carry out work, or to manage it for you. Keep valuables LOCKED AWAY. Notice the bag that the person carries with them, is it noticeably fuller when they leave?! Try to supervise or get a trusted friend or family member to supervise them.

If you want to get on with your fellow residents try not to be too overtly anything! Most people like people who just agree with the masses and don’t cause too much drama. If you want to live peacefully try and pick your arguments (very carefully!) and only make people aware of you when it is really necessary.

It can get lonely if you come to Jamaica on your own. Despite the beautiful views and freedom that comes with chilling out in your own oasis, it is nice to have someone to share it with. Try and encourage friends and family to visit, if you don’t have someone special in your life to share all that Jamaica has to offer. Or get out there and make some new friends…

To Finish…

I am not dismissing the value of living in a gated community as to some the experience can be fulfilling and enjoyable, giving them the home they always wanted in beautiful Jamaica without the headache of having to manage the building phase from overseas. You also get the benefit of 24 hour security, grounds maintenance, on-site facilities and the companionship of the other residents, all being well.

If you aren’t planning on being there all year round do you really care enough to worry about whether you are keeping up with the Jones’s? Obviously theft and criminal damage and two things that you do not want to come up against, especially in the so-called confines of a secure development, but you can help to limit the risks by being vigilant, changing locks, keeping them locked and keeping things behind closed (locked!) doors when not in use.

The drive of some people (including me) to live and be in Jamaica, even if it is for extended visits at a time, can be so powerful we would put up with almost anything just to be here. My advice to you if Jamaica really is your feel good place than just enjoy yourself and chill out a bit when you are here. Yes, there are loads of things to really get on your nerves and things are done differently and at a different pace, but don’t give up your dreams due to someone elses small mindedness. If you let things get on top of you and give up going back overseas feeling disheartened it will put a bad taste in your mouth about coming back. Look on the bright side, bad stuff happens no matter what side of the planet we are on, I just prefer to be depressed and disheartened wearing shorts, eating fried fish, rice and peas with a cool natural juice and a beautiful view!

Peace – I Love Jamaica!

Looking for a gated community in Jamaica


The Art of Packing a Barrel Part Two…

The Art of Packing a Barrel Part Two… If you want to ship to Jamaica, there are eight easy steps to clearing the articles at the wharf.

Jamaica Wharf Process

After much anticipation my barrels have arrived at Kingston Wharf and I cannot wait to see them again. I decided to get the barrels shipped to Kingston rather than Montego Bay and collect them myself, as not only was it cheaper, more critically it was faster, shaving off at least an extra 10 days waiting time for the ship to offload at Kingston and then make its way to Montego Bay for its last unloading.  As I was desperate to get my things as soon as possible and I was staying half way between the two ports I decided it made sense and was just as easy to go to Kingston as Mo’ Bay to retrieve my much wanted belongings that I had bid farewell to in London on 17th August 2012.

There are 8 (eight) easy steps to follow for clearing a barrel in Jamaica…

1 – Arrange Transportation to the Wharf – ensure the vehicle is large enough to hold the items you intend to pick up. Remember your I.D., TRN Card and shipping paperwork.

2 – Make your way to your Shipping Agent Office which will be located near to the appropriate Wharf, pay your Landing Fees and get your Bill of Lading. Make sure you know which Wharf to go to.

3 – Head to the Wharf, go to the Main Building hand in your paperwork and pay your handling charge.

4 – Go to the Manifest Building hand in your paperwork and wait for more paperwork and directions of which berth to attend to clear your goods.

5 – Once at the berth number, hand in your paperwork and wait for your name to be called. On entering the berth you will be asked to unpack your barrels for customs to look inside and value the contents.

6 – Proceed to the Customs Cashiers Desk where they will finalise the value of the items and give you a Customs Import Entry Form (C78X).

7 – Take the Customs Import Entry Form (C78X) to the Payments Office, pay the required fee and keep your receipt safe.

8 – Show the receipt to the Gate Pass Office and wait to receive a Gate Pass. Go back outside and find your driver, approach the gate and show the paperwork and the driver will also need to show their Driving Licence.  Approach the loading bay near to the berth, show your paperwork and load your items into your vehicle. Drive back to the main exit, show paperwork and finally leave the wahrf.

How to Clear a Barrel – Step One

The paperwork that I carried with me to Jamaica from Kingsley’s Shipping in the UK had an expected date of arrival printed on it as 24th September 2012, and it instructed you to telephone the office if you had not heard from them by that date. I was surprised to get a telephone call from Kingsley’s Shipping, Kingston Offices on the 21st September advising me that the barrels were ready for collection, before I had the chance to call them. The staff were very friendly and polite and gave me the address to come to in Kingston to collect the ‘Bill of Lading’ paperwork for clearing the barrels at the wharf.

I chartered a lovely, experienced driver Fenton and his mini bus for $9,000 (including Gas) through a recommendation from a friend, to drive me to Kingston Wharf and return with the 3 barrels. Fenton arrived as requested at 5.00am before ‘the Cock(erel) had taken off his draws’ as my good friend would have said and we set out in the early morning darkness for Kingston clutching my personal identification, TRN Card, the paperwork from Kingsley’s Shipping, my C15 form from the airport and receipts for the majority of the items I had shipped in the barrels, as proof of the cost I had paid for them in the UK.

We headed through Ocho Rios and travelled east towards St.Mary, which was a more scenic and traffic free route instead of the more familiar journey through Fern Gully and Flat Bridge. Swiftly driving along the deserted A3 Highway we quickly reached Ian Fleming International Airport (formerly Boscobel Aerodrome) and continued eastward towards to Orcabessa.

Turning off the Highway and heading through the interior of the country as the sun was coming up the beauty of Jamaica was revealed in the lush green canopies of trees and the numerous hills, gulleys and riversides we passed on the journey. Our route passed Stoney Hill on the outskirts of Kingston which had a lushly covered hillside which looked serene and magnificent against the dense forest trees that covered most of the other peaks.

Step Two

We reached Kingston and made our way to Kingsley’s Shipping Offices at Shop 13B, 14-16 First Street, Newport West, just before 8.00am where I found they were open and welcoming despite it being before the listed opening hours of 8.30am. The staff were very friendly and professional and unusually for Jamaica they worked quickly and efficiently in getting your paperwork ready for you. I handed over my paperwork from their UK offices, ID, TRN Card and my C15 Form and they gave me the ‘Bill of Lading’ which is an essential piece of paperwork to carry to the wharf. The office was clean and had a free iced water dispenser and chairs for you to rest in whilst they dealt with the paperwork. There was a $5,400.00 fee to pay Kingsley’s Shipping for landing fees for the 3 barrels. Within about 15 minutes I was handed a small piece of card with instructions of what to do next and was directed to the Wharf.

Step Three

Back in the mini-bus Fenton drove us round to the Wharf’s main gate and paid a fee to one of the unofficial car park attendants to park up outside the compound where vendors sold drinks and patties. Only 1 person (whose name is on the paperwork) was allowed to enter the compound in order to process the shipment. After showing my ‘Bill of Lading’ paperwork and ID to the friendly but officious guard I was directed to Kingsport Building which was clean and air-conditioned to the point of wanting to wear a sweater. Waiting in the line of people to reach one of the cashiers I noticed that I was the only white person in the building and was drawing some attention. I waited no more than 10 minutes before reaching the front desk and had a $2,060.00 bill to pay to the wharf for Handling Charges for the 3 barrels. I noticed the receipt had recorded that the ship had arrived at the wharf on the 18th September and that I would have been liable for paying Storage Fees had the barrels not been collected by the 29th September.

Step Four

After leaving the Kingsport Building you are directed to the Manifest Building which is a short walk away; anyone who has managed to accompany you thus far is instructed to wait on long wooden benches as you have to show your paperwork and receipt for the Wharf’s Handling Charges and are guided through a guarded carousel gateway. Before you reach the Manifest Building entrance you pass some public toilets on your right-hand side which are cavernous and a little foreboding to enter on your own, but they were clean.

Once in the building you join the commercial or personal shipping line to show your paperwork to the courteous Customs Officers where they check your paperwork against their records and tell you the Berth where your goods are being stored. There is a small shop in the Manifest Building right by the entrance that sells hot and cold drinks, bagged snacks, delicious patties, bun and cheese and so on, you may find the sustenance welcoming (or at the very least a cold drink) as you may have a long wait to clear your goods.

Shipping DocumentsTax Jamaica

 Step Five

Once out of the Manifest Building you show your paperwork and go through another guarded carousel gateway, where they direct you deeper into the belly of the wharf to the Berth Number that holds your goods (which is printed on the document). The woman guard here was especially friendly and was the first many at the wharf to ask if I could carry her back to London with me! Crossing the busy wharf road and turning right I was amazed at the size of the vehicles that were traversing the roadways and that were capable of carrying and driving with a huge container in its pincer like arms. The walkway on the other side is at a raised level from the roadway, which not only means persons can safely walk away from the formidable road traffic but it also makes it easier for loading of goods into vehicles.

Once you reach the Berth Number you hand your documents to the guard sitting behind a locked gate and wait on long wooden benches for your name to be called once the porters have located your barrels. This is where the goodies bought in the little shop in the Manifest Building come in handy…. By the time I reached this point it was coming up to 9.00am and there were only about 5 other people waiting before me.

A woman who was waiting was commenting that she was returning back the States tomorrow and had been in Jamaica for 6 weeks. She had sent 2 barrels and when she came to collect them only 1 could be found which contained clothes and gifts, the other one containing foodstuffs could not be found. After much confusion at the wharf she was instructed to go home and wait to be contacted when the other 1 was located. Needless to say the wharf called her two days before she was leaving the island to come and collect the other barrel as it had now been found, but she was annoyed that she had to buy foodstuffs whilst on the island despite spending the time and effort to ship them.

It took about 15 minutes for my name to be called where I was ushered through the gate and directed to a table where my 3 barrels were all lined up. I have to admit I was relieved to see all three barrels and was encouraged to see that they had managed to get all the way from London intact.  The friendly and charming Customs Officials called over a wisely (but strong and fit) porter and he unfastened the lock that Kingsley’s Shipping had put on back in London with a huge pair of pliers. The same porter ‘helped’ to unpack the barrels by taking out about half the items in two of the barrels and just the ‘top layer’ of the last barrel setting them out on the long stainless steel table.

The Customs Officers quickly looked over the items already laid out and asked me to continue to empty the barrels; once I had nearly emptied the first two barrels they came back over. I was asked to open a large plastic container that I had stored dishes and glasses in and had to pull out a large box containing a paddling pool for closer inspection. Generally anything in a box or carton was of interest to them and when they spied a saucepan handle (pot handle) they verbally noted that I had a pot set. They also asked about the bottle of Hennessey and Champagne that I had listed on the C15 form, but when I pulled out the bubble wrapped bottles they didn’t seem overly interested as I assured them there was only one of each. I showed them the receipt for the paddling pool and they noted the cost.

None of the barrels were completely emptied although they did look inside all 3 vessels. Unfortunately I had a few casualties as one cup handle broke off and the two champagne glasses I had sent had both broken despite packing them in bubble wrap, but at least they went together!

Step Six

Once the Customs officials were satisfied I was instructed to re-pack my barrels and a very good-looking strapping porter came over and helped me to re-pack them which ended up with me standing on top of the barrels in order to fit the lids back on, much to the pleasure of the staff! Once repacked you go to the Berth Office, hand in your paperwork to the Customs Cashiers with the Customs Officers notes scribbled on it and they look up the items on the internet to check the value of the goods. As my TRN number was not on the system I had to go upstairs to the Supervisors Office where I was again dealt with by friendly and efficient staff.

Back downstairs, it took about 20 minutes to be handed back my paperwork which held the magic number on it… the amount of tax payable to clear my barrels. I searched the document with bated breath and was super relieved to see that I only had to pay $6,014.45 for all 3 barrels which was much less than the advised $18,000 ($6,000 per barrel) I was told in the UK. Please be aware the C15 Form was effective in lowering the amount of tax payable; therefore if you ship and do not have the Form or ship to someone else, you may be liable for higher tax.

Step Seven

Take the Customs Import Entry Form (C78X) to the Payments Office which is at the end of the walkway near to where you cross the wharf road, make your payment and get a receipt for your Tax Payment. Keep this safe!

Step Eight

Take the Receipt to the Gate Pass Office which is back up near where the barrels are located and hand in your paperwork to get a Gate Pass, so your driver and vehicle can enter the wharf and load your goods. Walk back outside the way you came in through the Main Entrance showing your paperwork at all the guarded gateways and find your driver. You are now free to approach the main vehicle entrance to the wharf, where again your ever-growing amount of documents are checked along with the driving licence of the driver. Drive Slowly (there is a 5mph speed restriction) to the berth where the barrels were checked and park up near to the loading bays. Show your paperwork to the guards, who stamp it and instruct a porter to bring the barrels to your vehicle. The wisely porter came back and loaded the barrels into the mini-bus and as I anticipated asked if I had anything for him and I slipped him a note.

Once the barrels were loaded we approached the main entrance and the Customs officials checked how many items we had in the vehicle against the documents, checked the driving licence and then took away all the paperwork except the receipts. We were finally clear to leave the compound and head back home to unpack the barrels. By just after 10.00am we had left the wharf and eagerly stopped at a patty shop before driving back home. Once we got out of the hustle and bustle of Kingston we stopped and got a cold beer and one of the bars and vendors near to Stony Hill before reaching back home near Ochi (Ocho Rios) by lunch time.

What I Thought About Kingston Wharf and Shipping Barrels

Following numerous horror stories about collecting goods from the wharf I was filled with anticipation about how long it was going to take and what the experience was going to be like collecting the barrels myself. In reflection, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised and it was nowhere near as tiresome as everyone had told me. When I mentioned this to friends they retorted that Christmas and Easter were a different matter…

Arriving at the wharf early was key to my success in this operation as it meant  I beat the queues, try it yourself and you will be glad you did. Everyone at the wharf was professional but polite, friendly and (mostly) happy and were intrigued by my presence there. Bring proof of purchase in the form of receipts to show to the customs officers so that they can value your goods correctly. The best tactic in these circumstances is to be friendly and co-operative and that also means being patient when necessary… if you get ignorant with the Customs Officers you may find they get ignorant with you!

I highly recommend Kingsley’s Shipping service from London to Kingston and would not hesitate to use their services again as they were not only super professional and friendly, they were also careful with my goods.

Looking for a shipping quotation to Jamaica

The Art of Shipping a Barrel… Part One

The Art of Shipping a Barrel – Part One

Shipping a crate or a barrel is not as hard as you think if you follow some easy tips and advice and with the great service at the wharf it makes it all the more enjoyable…

This is a two-part post on The Art of Shipping to JamaicaPart One includes advice and tips on everything that happens prior to the barrel leaving the Senders address. Part Two covers what happens once the barrel has arrived in the destination port of entry and requires clearing and transportation to the receiver.

How to Ship a Barrel?

It is a fairly simple process to arrange shipping for a barrel to Jamaica, as demonstrated in these three easy steps!

  1. Find a reputable local shipping agent and buy a barrel; usually at around £32.00 / $20 – $40 US, for a 210 litre / 55 Gallon plastic barrel, most agents will deliver sometimes for a small fee
  2. Pack your barrel with care! Wrap lids with brown packing tape and separate food items away from toiletries, soap powder and cleaning materials, so they taste and smell as they should. Bubble wrap fragile items and use towels, bed sheets and other soft items as protection.
  3. Arrange for collection from your shipping agent and make sure they put a ‘tamper proof seal’ on your barrel. Pay for shipping to either Kingston wharf, Montego bay wharf, or opt for home delivery. Get your Bill of Lading and keep in a safe place – you will need to take it to the wharf with you to clear the barrel

Finding a Shipping Agent

If you are thinking about shipping a barrel to Jamaica first and foremost you are going to need to find a shipping agent and locate somewhere that stocks barrels and drums.

The obvious place to try is local shipping companies and shipping agents in your area, many of which can be found when searching for ‘shipping services’ online, or in directories such as the yellow pages. If you give most shipping agents a call they may be willing to drop off an empty barrel at little, or no charge.

Alternatively, try searching online for ‘barrels and drums’ , ‘barrel’ or ‘plastic shipping barrel’. I have seen barrels for sale on eBay and Gumtree and through independent sellers, where they have plenty of choice and availability.

The most popular size of barrel holds around 210 – 220 litres, or about 55 Gallons are sold for about £32.00, or US $25.00 – US $40.00.

More Information: Want to learn more about Barrels? – Read ‘What are Shipping Barrels and Drums?’

Packing your Barrel

To ensure you items arrive in one piece and tasting as expected, you should follow some packing ettiquette tips. Sort items by type, wrap and seal them to plastic bags and containers and do your best to keep different types of items apart. I would recommend packing items you love and need and look out for bargains and deals to lower the cost of filling the barrel.

Barrels containing a mixture of food, household / kitchen items, cleaning materials, toiletries, used clothing and other sundry items have the lowest tax bracket as they are considered to be items for personal use. These types of barrel contents attract Customs Fees starting from JA $6,500 per barrel and up.

More Information: A guide to Picking and Packing a Shipping Barrel


Security of Barrels when Shipping

You may of heard rumours that items go missing from barrels, or that it is not a secure way to transport your goods to Jamaica.  But I would beg to differ. In my experience of shipping to Jamaica since 2008, I have never had anything go missing from any of my consignments.

Barrel Security is paramount to both the customer and the shipping agent. It would ruin a shipping agents reputation if they repeatedly raided their customers barrels, or where negligent when clearing items on a customers behalf.

The wharf is also a profit making business, bad customer feedback means less customers and less profit, so they watch their staff and have massively upgraded the facilities and security measures in recent years.

To ensure the barrels are secured the shipping agents attach a small tamper proof metal tag to the barrel seal. This is secured to the barrel before they even leave the senders location and are loaded onto the truck for delivery to the wharf. If you really want to have peace of mind you can write down the serial number and check it has the same serial / ID number when it reaches the wharf in Jamaica, if you are clearing the barrels and drums in person.

If you opt for home delivery, the barrel will be opened by customs officials in the presence of your shipping agent, in order for the contents to be verified and valued for customs duty. Please be aware that Kingston Wharf has cameras working in this area to film what is going on and to prevent the possible stealing or removing of goods from the barrels by the people working there.

This is also a way of catching contraband that is being packed into the barrels. The video evidence will show the sealed barrel being opened for the first time since it left the senders overseas location, incriminating them squarely.


Labelling your Barrel Correctly

The only way of distinguishing your barrel from the millions of other barrels at the wharf is the label, or to be exact the writing on the barrel itself. So be sure to take the time to do it correctly.

It is best to use a thick black permanent marker pen and write your name (or the receivers name) and address clearly on the barrels, so they are easily identifiable at the wharf. Don’t be shy, write in big block letters so it can be read from a mile away (not literally!), make it easy for the warehouse workers to find your barrel in the mellee. If the cover is made of metal write on that too, the more labels the better. The shipping agent will generally add their own sticker backed label as well, but it is best not to rely on it in case in falls off.

The correct way of writing the receivers details on the barrel is:


Receivers Name (first and last name)

Local Post Office

Address of Receiver

Parish of Receiver

Jamaica, W.I.


How Much Does it Cost to Ship a Barrel?

The cost involved in shipping a barrel is made up of two parts. The first set of charges will be pre-paid in the country of origin and the rest will need to be paid by the receiver in the destination country. The sender will need to take into account the cost of filling the barrel (the contents), buying the barrel itself and the cost of shipping the barrel from the country of origin to the port of destination.

To give an example: It cost me £96.00 in total for 3 barrels, plus a further £120.00 to collect the barrels from London, UK and ship them to Kingston Wharf, Jamaica.

There are other fees and taxes to pay in the destination country, when clearing and collecting the barrel. The fees vary dependent on the shipping agent, Customs taxes and fees incurred and whether you opt for home delivery in Jamaica.

Want to learn about the process of clearing a barrel and the charges incurred? Keep reading Part Two.

More Information: The Art of Shipping a Barrel –  Part Two

This Post was originally posted on 23rd November 2012 – Updated January 2017.

Looking for a shipping quotation to Jamaica

Get More From Sweet Jamaica – Join Us Here…

Want to get updates on the move then join our FaceBook Page and Twitter Feed so you don’t miss out!

Like our FaceBook Page to get the latest news, photo’s, music, events, competitions and offers from Sweet Jamaica

Join our twitter feed @sweetjamaicajul for up to date happenings, information and fun from Sweet Jamaica

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Bless up, Jules

Keep the Conversation Going….

Have you shipped items to Jamaica, share your experience? Which items do you love to ship, or can’t do without?

Join the Comments Below….



JPS the Electric Power Provider in Jamaica

Jamaica was one of the fore runners in the use of electricity around the world, today JPS have the sole responsibility for the supply, but for how long?…

Brief History of Electricity in Jamaica

With all the hype you hear about the electricity service today in Jamaica you could be forgiven for not knowing that Jamaica was one of the first countries in the world to have an electricity supply in 1892, a mere 13 years after American scientist Thomas Edison invented the electric lamp. The same year the Jamaica Electric Light Company provided the first electricity service on the island from a plant at Gold Street, Kingston transforming the lives and work practises of many Jamaicans.

The West India Electric Company had a bigger influence when they established an office in Kingston at 151 Orange Street and extended the electricity service to other areas by way of a powerful 3 machine hydroelectric plant on the Rio Cobre River at Bog Walk in 1897. The Plant had the capacity to deliver over 300 kilowatts of energy enabling the company to introduce electric tramcars to the public (buses later took over) which replaced the horse draw cabs that Jamaicans formerly used to get about. A tragic accident on 24th June 1904 left many local families distraught as 33 men drowned whilst cleaning out the silt that had collected in the 8ft wide pipe supplying water to the plant from the Rio Cobre River.

The West India Electric Company became more effective in serving the public after the integration of the Gold Street station with the Bog Walk Supply system in 1907. This occurred after a severe earthquake damaged areas of Kingston and they were able to lease the property and business of Jamaica Light & Power Company Ltd, (formerly the Jamaica Electric Light Company) consolidating the two plants power together.

JPS (Jamaica Public Service Company Limited) is Formed

Although many towns had their own electricity companies supplying the local area in the early years several buy-outs, consolidations and amalgamations produced the Jamaica Public Service Company Limited as we know it today. JPS was registered as a limited business in 1923 and was granted an all-island franchise in 1966. Now serving over 585,000 customers JPS remains the sole public supplier of electricity in Jamaica.

Although JPS was originally owned by foreign shareholders, between 1970 and 2001  the Government of Jamaica acquired controlling interest. This control ceased in 2001 when the Mirant Corporation, a US-based energy service provider, bought 80% of the company with the government left with just 19%,  the last 1% was controlled by minority shareholders.

This partnership survived until 2007 when Mirant sold its majority shares to Marubeni Caribbean Power Holdings (MCPH) Inc, a subsidiary of Marubeni Corporation of Japan.

In early 2009 Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA) of the United Arab Emirates, joined Marubeni as co-owner of JPS. Majority shares were therefore jointly held by Marubeni TAQA Caribbean.

This partnership was short-lived as in the first quarter of 2011, TAQA withdrew from the partnership with Marubeni in the Caribbean to concentrate on other investments. By the second quarter of 2011, Korea East West Power (EWP) entered into a Purchase and Sale Agreement with Marubeni Corporation for joint ownership of majority shares (80%) in the company. Today, Marubeni Caribbean and Korea East-West Power Company Ltd are the majority shareholders in the Jamaica Public Service Company Ltd.

Power Sources

JPS produces electricity by various methods across the island including, steam (oil-fired), gas turbines, combined cycle, diesel, hydropower and wind plants. They are encouraging the development of ‘green’ initiatives to cut the dependency on oil for producing power, including new wind turbine plants and hydro-power facilities (water).

How to Open a New Account with JPS

If you want to open a new account with JPS and you own the residence then you must either visit one of the island wide offices, or telephone them on (876) 225-5577 to make the first application. If a meter is already on your premises, the power supply will be connected within 5 working days of opening the contract. Interest is received annually on your deposits, which is applied to your electricity bill.

If you are moving or relocating then you must make sure that you apply for service 5 days prior to expected date of use to ensure power is available.

Newly Built Property 

Should you have a newly built residence it will need certification by the Government Electrical Inspector prior to being able to open an account, please remember to allow up to 15 business days for the certificate to be submitted to JPS.

Conditional Contract for Service

If you do not own the premises for which you need electricity service you can get a Conditional Contract for Service when you give JPS written permission from your landlord, or a letter of recommendation from a Justice of the Peace.

In order to open a new account for both types of service you will need to provide JPS with:

  • Taxpayer Registration Number (TRN)
  • Photo ID
  • Deposit of $1500 (included on first electricity bill for phone applicants only)

Reconnection of Service Due to Non Payment of Bills

If for any reason your service has been disconnected due to non-payment of bills you will be expected to settle your bill, pay an extra $1,500 + GCT reconnection fee and may also be asked to upgrade your deposit if it is less than the equivalent of 60 days previous usage. It is very important to make provisions to pay your bills if you are out of the country for any length of time as it can be expensive and inconvenient when things go wrong. The increase in deposit can be as follows:

  • 1st Incident – Deposit is upgraded by $1,500
  • Subsequent Incidents – Upgrade will represent the equivalent of 2 months’ usage

Terminating Your Electricity Contract  

If you wish to end your electricity contract with JPS you should contact them so they will come and take a meter reading and prepare a final bill; any deposit paid and interest due are applied to the final amount. Should there be a balance owing you will be required to settle the bill, however if JPS owe you money you will be expected to apply in writing at your nearest Customer Service Office to get a refund. 

In order to terminate your contract you will need to supply JPS with:

  • JPS account number
  • the ID you provided when you opened the account.
  • Remember, the electricity meter is the property of JPS, and must not be tampered with or removed.

Understanding the Bill

The bill that you will receive has many charges and GCT added which can considerably increase the actual amount due, so may want to prepare for a shock when it comes in! There is a Glossary on the back of the bill which explains what the various charges are for, although it doesn’t make the bill any easier to swallow…

My Bill Arrives

My last bill for a one bedroom apartment, which normally houses two people was for $6,952.37 for the month, but I ended up paying $7,008.00 when the GCT and service charge from Bill Express was added. My apartment has an electric oven (which I do not recommend as it eats electric) and a fridge / freezer, I use my laptop on a daily basis (work, Internet, listening to music and movies) but plug it out, including the modem when I am finished with it, I try not to use the fan and AC unless it is really necessary, I do not have a washing machine or drier, do not have masses of ironing (pressing of clothes) every week either and try to remember to turn off unnecessary lights around the house.

Payment Options

There are various ways of paying your JPS bill:

  • Visit JPS customer service offices across the island and pay in person
  • Telephoning JPS Customer Care Center on (876) 225-5577 and pay using Visa or MasterCard
  • Pay at the following authorized merchants:
  • Bill Express * No transaction fee required for payment of JPS bills ONLY in the JPS offices
  • Prime Trust Cambio – Half Way Tree
  • Paymaster * Transaction fee require.
  • First Caribbean Bank
  • Jamaica National Building Society

JPS Reputation

To be honest JPS have a pretty bad reputation in Jamaica with many people feeling displeased with the service, but as there aren’t any competitors Jamaicans are tied to the company whether their experience is good or bad. There are frequent power cuts whereby the lights generally flash on and off twice before it completely shuts down, for how long? No-body knows. You just wait and hope it isn’t too long and start lighting candles. The longest power cut I have experienced is 6 days after Hurricane Sandy and it wasn’t fun. At all.

The company has to tackle communities and businesses where there are losses as residents steal electricity by hooking wires up to the main supply cables that stretch across the country to ‘bridge’ the current by-passing the meter. Many people believe the high cost of bills is due to paying customers covering the cost on non-paying customers further increasing the resentment.

Some people have generators that ‘kick in’ when the mains power is interrupted for a certain length of time, restoring power and enabling them to get through the power cut without too many problems…. unless the generator is out of fuel of course! Another method of reducing electricity consumption that is gaining popularity, especially from returning residents that build in Jamaica, is the installation of solar panels.

A Schedule of Rates for 2012 can be found here, which explains costings for the coming year:

The latest Schedule of Rates as of December 2014 can be found here:

Further information about JPS can be found at their website:

Thinking of moving to Jamaica

Food Shopping is Expensive in Jamaica!

Food Shopping is Expensive in Jamaica!

If you are considering moving to Jamaica don’t be fooled into thinking that it is cheap to buy groceries and household items, because the cost of living and everyday items is somewhat shocking. As I walk around the stores I find myself checking the price of the items I am putting in my basket, as it is all too easy to get a fright at the till when the cashier informs you of your balance. I am sure the reason they don’t start packing the groceries until after you have opened your purse and handed over the money is in case you need to retrieve something and put it back!

Cheap Imported Foods

Don’t get me wrong the cost of food shopping in the UK, or specifically London where I come from, isn’t exactly cheap. But we have an influx of what is universally known by the British as ‘pound shops’, where everyday items can be picked up for, you guessed it, £1.00. European supermarkets also flood the local high streets with knock-down prices on a wider ranges of foodstuffs, helping the working classes to get by on lower incomes.

But this isn’t really the case in Jamaica, as the equivalent $100 shops do not exist. The smaller supermarkets edging in on the market share are mainly Chinese owned and they are highly unlikely to give you a dollar off the going rate, much less create a price war with their competitors. Most basic staple food items, such as sugar, flour, rice, bread, oil, meats, fish and vegetables seem to have a ‘going rate’ at any one time in Jamaica and you will be hard pushed to find a vendor that will go below this current market rate to make a fast sale.

Price fixing as such, is normal so you just buy what you can afford. Simple. But it occurs to me time and time again, how everyday Jamaican people are managing these expenses on their incomes?

There is an influx of imported goods into Jamaica, and believe it or not this also includes things like sugar, bananas, onions, and coconuts. Locally grown and raised produce is often more expensive than its imported counterparts and so the reliance on imported goods perpetuates.

Buying Household Goods in Jamaica

The choice, price and quality of household items found in Jamaica, is likely to very different to what you can find overseas. Whilst there are low-cost items found all over the island, they are often imported from China and are made of cheap flimsy materials which do not last. This makes them uneconomical to buy, as they have to be replaced so often (you buy cheap, you buy twice).

Good quality, modern looking soft furnishings, such as curtains, nets, cushions, blankets, bedding, towels, bath mats, shower curtains and rugs / mats are generally expensive in Jamaica, as the majority are imported.

Kitchen ware, such as cutlery, utensils and pots and pans are also expensive and the choice of brands can be somewhat limited.

Decorative items, such as pictures, ornaments, vases, wall hangings and picture frames are also limited and can be very expensive for the sort of attractive contemporary pieces we are used to seeing abroad.

You may prefer to bring these type of items from overseas and most items can be easily packed into a barrel.

Buying Local – Support Jamaica Buy Jamaican!

There are more and more entrepeneurs springing up all over Jamaica offering a plethora of items for your consuming pleasure! Whether it be furniture or interior design products, gourmet foods and drinks, or beauty and jewellery lines. Supporting these individuals and small businesses helps to build Jamaica and its people. If you want ideas of who, where, how and why you should get involved, read the ‘Support Jamaica Buy Jamaican!’ series of posts featuring some of the best and boldest companies that Jamaica has to offer.


Living Expenses of Visitors and Returning Residents to Jamaica

The cost of living expenditures, such as groceries and household items, needs to be factored into the budget when thinking about moving to Jamaica, or when retiring there. As visitors and returning residents we initially start by translating the prices back into our native currency and compare how it equates to living back there, but that isn’t realistic in the long-term.

If you do not work in Jamaica, or have an income stream feeding you from overseas, you may find it gets exhaustive stretching out your hand to pay for things, but getting nothing back in the other hand to replenish it.

If you are considering moving to Jamaica it is a good idea to ‘grow what you eat’ where possible, if you have any space available to do so. There is nothing better than popping outside your very own doorstep to pick and collect the fruits of your labour and it tastes so much better too; especially if grown organically.

Save Money on Groceries – Ship a Barrel to Jamaica!

If you don’t know what a shipping barrel is, it may be worthwhile reading Barrels and Drums – The Basics. As I recommend stocking up and shipping a barrel or two when you can.  Barrels and drums containing food items, cleaning materials, toiletries and household goods, help to cut down on what you have to pick up at the stores in Jamaica. You also have the benefit of having all your favourites to hand, plus items that are non-existent or expensive to buy in Jamaica.

More information: Shipping to Jamaica.


Looking for a shipping quotation to Jamaica

The Cost of Groceries in Jamaica

I initially published this post in November 2012 and I listed the cost of some items that I had bought in Hi-Lo Supermarket in Ocho Rios. Looking back at the 2012 prices I am amazed at how much some items have raised since! This is proof in point of why it is so important to consider your outgoings when moving to Jamaica, or visiting here for an extended period of time.

The 2012 receipt has a small selection of ‘non-essential’ items, such as, cigarettes, cakes and beer, but also has everyday items, such as, bread, toilet tissue and fresh seasoning for cooking included to give a wider indication of the price of popular items.

Today’s currency exchange rate can be found courtesy of I have itemised the receipt with the price shown in Jamaican Dollars, UK Sterling and USA Dollars to give an example of a small basket of items from a Jamaican supermarket as of 1st November 2012:

Hi-Lo Supermarket Receipt…

  • Giant Hard Dough Bread: $240.00 JA, or £1.64 UK, or $2.64 US Dollars.
  • 2 x tin Grace Vienna Sausages: $153.12 JA, or £1.05 UK, or $1.69 US Dollars.
  • 2 x Hi-Lo Flaked Tuna Fish: $157.10 JA, or £1.08 UK, or $1.74 US Dollars.
  • Red Stripe Beer (un-chilled): $99.89 JA, or £0.68 UK, or $1.10 US Dollars.
  • Dragon Stout (un-chilled): $118.87 JA, or £0.81 UK, or $1.31 US Dollars.
  • 2 x small chubby soda(un-chilled): $44.60 JA, or £0.31 UK, or $0.49US Dollars.
  • Betty tinned condensed Milk: $159.39 JA, or £0.81 UK, or $1.31 US Dollars.
  • Bulk Margarine: $80.16 JA, or £0.55 UK, or $0.88 US Dollars.
  • 2 x Chippies small Banana Chips: $84.50 JA, or £0.58 UK, or $0.93 US Dollars.
  • Local Onions loose: $84.05 JA, or £0.58 UK, or $0.58 US Dollars.
  • Honey Bun Pineapple Cake: $76.00 JA, or £0.52 UK, or $0.84 US Dollars.
  • Honey Bun Cheese Bread: $95.00 JA, or £0.65 UK, or $1.05 US Dollars.
  • Scott Bathroom Tissue Roll: $53.78 JA, or £0.37 UK, or $0.59 US Dollars.
  • Garlic Loose 1 Head: $16.80 JA, or £0.12 UK, or $0.19 US Dollars.
  • Plum Tomato Pre-packed: $73.56 JA, or £0.50 UK, or $0.81 US Dollars.
  • North Coast Times Newspaper: $43.00 JA, or £0.29 UK, or $0.47 US Dollars.
  • Dunhill lights 20 cigarettes: $621.50 JA, or £4.25 UK, or $6.86 US Dollars.
Sub Total: $2,221.32 JA, or £15.21 UK, or $24.52 US Dollars.
Tax: $294.84 JA, or £2.02 UK, or $3.25 US Dollars.
Total: $2,516.16 JA, or £17.23 UK, or $27.78 US Dollars.

This receipt is representative of just a small basket of items and cost just over $2,500 and does not include a single complete meal, the tax alone is nearly $300. I appreciate the alcohol and cigarettes bump up the price and cake is not an essential item, but these are the sort of things we treat ourselves to when popping to the local shop in London and wouldn’t think anything of buying them.

In Conclusion

It’s not nice to work hard for a ‘dream lifestyle’ somewhere hot and beautiful like Jamaica, if you spend your nest egg in the first couple of years of coming to live here. Unless, you have an endless supply of money and can afford to spend like there is no tomorrow – Start thinking like a Jamaican.

Remember that although it can feel like one endless vacation (as who is to complain) when living in Jamaica, it will soon turn into a nightmare if you do not take into consideration the everyday things such as, Food Shopping is Expensive in Jamaica!

More information: Want to learn more about all aspects of Shipping to Jamaica?

 Thinking of moving to Jamaica

Get More From Sweet Jamaica – Join Us Here…

Want to get updates on the move then join us…

FaceBook Page

Twitter feed @sweetjamaicajul 


Looking forward to hearing from you.

Bless up, Jules

Keep the Conversation Going….

Have you bought groceries in Jamaica, what do you think of the prices? Share your experience and Join the Comments Below….

My First Post!

Welcome to Sweet Jamaica!

This website is all about Sweet Sweet Jamaica. A collection of posts, pages, videos and photographs from my personal experiences of the island, with the twist that comes from it all being from a Londoners point of view.

Continue reading My First Post!